Dr. Mark Barrow


Mark Barrow’s research and teaching lie at the intersection of the history of biology (especially natural history and conservation biology), environmental history, and cultural history, particularly in the American context.  His first book, A Passion for Birds: American Ornithology after Audubon (Princeton University Press, 1998), won the Forum for the History of Science in America Book Prize and was selected as a Choice Outstanding Academic Book.  His second book, Nature’s Ghosts: Confronting Extinction from the Age of Jefferson to the Age of Ecology (University of Chicago Press, 2009), examines how naturalists have engaged with the issue of wildlife extinction in the two centuries leading up to the Endangered Species Act of 1973.  This historically sweeping look at the history of conservation biology was selected as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title and was awarded the Susan Abrahms Prize from the University of Chicago Press and the Watson Davis and Helen Miles Davis Prize from the History of Science Society.


Dr. Barrow is currently working on a cultural and environmental history of the American alligator, a charismatic predator that we have thought about and interacted with in a variety of often contradictory ways.  While these ambiguities might emerge in sharper relief with this large toothy reptile that occasionally consumes humans, he thinks we tend to hold conflicted and contradictory understandings of other species and much of the natural world more generally.

Mark V. Barrow, Jr. is Professor and former Chair of the History Department at Virginia Tech and an affiliated faculty member with the Science and Technology in Society Department.  He has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of the History of Biology, Isis, and Environmental History.  He regularly teaches a variety of undergraduate courses in environmental history, the history of biology, and historical methods, and a graduate course in environmental history.

Departmental website

Recent Relevant Publications

Barrow, M.V.  2021. William Bartram’s Man-Eating Monster: An Early American Naturalist’s Terrifying Account Continues to Color How the Public Views an Iconic Reptile. Humanities Magazine 42, no. 2 (Spring): 10-15, 47-48.  Also available online: https://www.neh.gov/article/william-bartrams-man-eating-monster

“Teetering on the Brink of Extinction: The Passenger Pigeon, the Bison, and American Zoo Culture in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries,” pp. 51-64 in Ben Minteer, Jane Maienshein, and James Collins, eds., The Ark and Beyond: The Evolution of Zoo and Aquarium Conservation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018).

“Extinction,” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Environmental Science (2018).

“Carson in Cartoon: A New Window onto the Noisy Reception to Silent Spring,Endeavour 36, no. 4 (2012): 156-164.

“The Specter of Extinction: Taking a Long View on Species Loss,” Journal of the History of Biology 16, no. 3 (2011): 428-432.

“On the Trail of the Ivory-Bill: Field Science, Local Knowledge, and the Struggle to Save Endangered Species,” in Jeremy Vetter, ed., Knowing Global Environments: New Historical Perspectives on the Field Sciences (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2010), 135-161.

“The Alligator’s Allure: Changing Perceptions of a Charismatic Carnivore,” in Dorothee Brantz, ed., Beastly Natures: Animals, Humans, and the Study of History (Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2010), 127-152.

Nature’s Ghosts: Confronting Extinction from the Age of Jefferson to the Age of Ecology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009).

“Dragons in Distress: Naturalists as Bioactivists in the Campaign to Save the American Alligator,” Journal of the History of Biology 42, no. 2 (2009): 267-288.

“Science, Sentiment, and the Specter of Extinction: Reconsidering Birds of Prey during America’s Interwar Years,” Environmental History 7 (2002): 69-98.