The 2017-2018 HSS/NASA Fellowship in the History of Space Science has been awarded to Andy Bruno, an associate professor of history at Northern Illinois University. He will use the fellowship to study the history of the mysterious Tunguska explosion of 1908 that happened over a desolate region of Siberia and the efforts by amateurs, scientists, and even science fiction writers to understand it.
The explosion, which decimated 770 square miles of forest, was alternately attributed to an air burst from an asteroid, a meteor or comet, the release and explosion of natural gas from the Earth’s crust, and even a nuclear explosion from a UFO crash.
Bruno will use research surrounding the event and the contested explanations to illuminate various aspects of Soviet science during the Cold War. He has already spent time researching at the “Threatened Orders” Collaborative Research Center at the University of Tübingen and traveling to Russia in 2012, 2013, and 2017 to conduct research in the Archive of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow and the National Library of Russia in Saint Petersburg.
Bruno is also Faculty Associate in Environmental Studies at NIU. His first book, The Nature of Soviet Power: An Arctic Environmental History, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2016. As part of the HSS/NASA prize, he will give a public talk this spring.