William Rankin’s interests cover a wide range within the history of the physical and earth sciences since the mid-nineteenth century. He is particularly interested in military, industrial, and governmental science, the history of cartography, science and architecture, urban planning, environmental history, and methodological problems of spatial, visual, and geographic analysis. His research focuses specifically on the relationship between science and space, from the territorial scale of states and globalization down to the scale of individual buildings. Ongoing projects include the history and politics of scientific drawing (especially maps and engineering drawings), the history of infrastructure, and the architecture of laboratories, green design, and other scientific spaces. In addition to his writing, Rankin is also an active cartographer, and his maps have appeared in numerous books, magazines, and exhibitions.
His current book project, After the Map: Cartography, Navigation, and the Transformation of Territory in the Twentieth Century, focuses on the mapping sciences, sovereignty, and U.S. military globalism in the decades surrounding World War II. It is forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press.
Resources for Students
Articles and Book Chapters
“Global Positioning System.” In Cartography in the Twentieth Century, edited by Mark Monmonier. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015.
“The Geography of Radionavigation and the Politics of Intangible Artifacts.” Technology and Culture 55 (July 2014): 622–674. Winner of the Bernard S. Finn IEEE History Prize for the best paper on the history of electrotechnology – power, electronics, telecommunications, and computer science – published during 2014.
“The ‘Person Skilled in the Art’ is Really Quite Conventional: U.S. Patent Drawings and the Persona of the Inventor, 1870-2005.” in Making and Unmaking Intellectual Property: Creative Production in Legal and Cultural Perspective, edited by Mario Biagioli, Peter Jaszi, and Martha Woodmansee, 55–75. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011.
“Visualizing Disciplines, Transforming Boundaries.” Review of Atlas of Science by Katy Börner. American Scientist 99 (May 2011): 254–256.
“The Epistemology of the Suburbs: Knowledge, Production, and Corporate Laboratory Design.” Critical Inquiry (Summer 2010): 771–806.
“Infrastructure and the International Governance of Economic Development, 1950–1965.” In Internationalization of Infrastructures, edited by Jean-François Auger, Jan Jaap Bouma, and Rolf Künneke, 61–75. Delft University of Technology, 2009.
“The Reification of Sound: Recording Technology and the Changing Ontology of Music.” Open Space 8/9 (Fall 2006–Spring 2007).
“Seismic Isolation Enhancements for Initial and Advanced LIGO” (coauthor). Classical and Quantum Gravity 21 (Special Issue, 7 March 2004): s915–s921. (Erdős number: 6)
Maps and Essays on Cartography
“Redrawing the Map.” ArchitectureBoston 18, no. 3 (Summer 2015): 42–45.
Maps: “Actual European Discoveries,” “The Midwest,” and “French Kisses.” In The Best American Infographics 2014, edited by Gareth Cook with an introduction by Nate Silver. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014.
Maps of global agricultural land since 1700. In Food: An Atlas, edited by Darin Jensen. Oakland: Guerrilla Cartography, 2013.
“Cartography and the Reality of Boundaries.” Perspecta 42 (Spring 2010): 42–45.
“Urban Legends.” Boston Review 35 (Nov/Dec 2010): 5–6.
Maps of US agriculture, demographics, suicide, and subways. In Mapping America: Exploring the Continent, edited by Fritz Kessler and Frank Jacobs. London: Black Dog, 2010.
“Landscapes of Specialization.” In Ecological Urbanism, edited by Mohsen Mostafavi and Gareth Doherty, 502–503. Baden: Lars Müller, 2010.
Maps for “Arctic Land Grab,” National Geographic Vol. 215, No. 5 (May 2009): 108–124.
Maps: “My Cities,” “We The People?” and “The Cargo Chain,” in Experimental Geography: Radical Approaches to Landscape, Cartography, and Urbanism, edited by Nato Thompson, 124–129. Brooklyn: Melville House, 2008.
More cartographic work is available on Bill’s website, www.radicalcartography.net, maintained since 2003
Harvard University, dual Ph.D. in History of Science and Architecture
Harvard University, A.M. in History of Science
Rice University, Bachelor of Architecture
Rice University, B.A. in Architecture and Civil Engineering, summa cum laude