Teaching Science through History

Charles Keeling & Measuring Atmospheric CO2

by John Leaf (with contributions from Douglas Allchin)

Keeling-instrumentsThe Keeling Curve is now an icon of climate science. This case study considers the origin and development of this famous graph, illustrating how "science-in-the-making" looks very different than it does in retrospect. It follows Keeling from his introduction to measuring carbon dioxide in a strictly geological context through successive stages as the relevant context shifts. The episode also highlights the uncertainty of funding, with five major crises over three decades.

NOS features include:

  • the role of long-term data
  • funding science
  • role of measurement (accuracy, precision, calibration of instruments)
  • cultural and political contexts of science
  • the role of collaboration
  • science as a career/human dimension of science

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