For centuries, novelists, politicians, investors, and tourists have looked at Latin America and the Caribbean as an extraordinary place of natural wealth and diverse human populations. Similarly, scientists and explorers have imagined the region as a set of rich natural landscapes — sites ripe for exploration and study.  Recent scholarship has begun to uncover the complex ways in which Latin America and the Caribbean histories of science are not only interesting as narratives of scientific exploration of exotic locations on the periphery, but are instead central to our understanding of the global history of science since at least 1492.  As the sources and texts in HOSLAC show, Latin American people, places, and objects have been integral to our modern understanding of slavery, colonialism, geology, medicine, and the human and social sciences.

The goal of HOSLAC, then, is to introduce to scholarly and public audiences to the global phenomenon of science in its distinct Latin American contexts.  While there is no singular, grand narrative of Latin American and Caribbean science, a few themes emerge from the sources collected in this database.

  • The history of science in Latin America and the Caribbean is clearly marked by a richness and diversity of experience. From the pre-Columbian to the age of biotechnology, from Nahuatl to Spanish to Portuguese, and from geology to anthropology to astronomy, science stories in Latin America and the Caribbean reflect the vastness and multilayered nature of the region in general.
  • The knowledge produced in the region was the product of cross-cultural and international engagement. Latin American and Caribbean scientists have been, from the earliest days of colonialism to the present, internationally engaged, primarily but not exclusively with European and North American scientists. These relationships have created and shaped unique dynamics of scientific knowledge transfer, exchange, and innovation. Of course, the sources also reveal that this cross-cultural engagement has been at times involuntary, coercive, or violent -- starkly demonstrated by the history of technology in slave societies.
  • Last but not least, the sources in HOSLAC reveal that science is best understood by examining more than scientists’ ideas and reports. Native and local actors were crucial in the construction, interpretation, and application of scientific knowledge. As the sources on scientific exploration and anthropology show, common people were contributors, as both subjects and participants, to the creation of new scientific fields and “discoveries.”

HOSLAC is organized into Topics that are organized approximately chronologically, but each one stands alone.  The archive, or database of primary sources, is designed in a modular fashion, so viewers from a variety of fields can use small units or large units to fit their classroom or research needs.  As a teaching resource, individual sources or topics can be assigned as study material and used in classroom lectures and discussions. The website is available to general audiences as well.  

The History of Science in Latin America and the Caribbean is an NSF Funded project under the supervision of Prof. Julia E. Rodriguez at the University of New Hampshire.

This site was made possible by National Science Foundation CAREER Grant #0547125. Additional support was provided by the University of New Hampshire History Department and the UNH Office of Sponsored Research.

Project Team:

  • Editor: Julia E. Rodriguez, UNH History Department
  • Senior Editor: Jan Golinski, UNH History Department
  • Associate Editor (HOSLAC 2.0): Taylor Dysart, University of Pennsylvania
  • Associate Editor: Cameron Strang, University Nevada - Reno
  • Senior Consulting Editors: Elizabeth Bakewell (Brown University), Eve Buckley (University of Delaware), Marcos Cueto (Casa de Oswaldo Cruz, Fiocruz), Stuart McCook (University of Guelph), Ana Romo (Texas State University), Neil Safier (Brown University).
  • Technical Producer: Charles Forcey, Historicus Inc. Special thanks to John Pietlicki, UNH Web and Mobile Development. 
  • Digital Editor: Kelly Pedersen, UNH