Webb wins Historical Society of New Mexico award for 'science in the Southwest'

Scientists often toil in anonymity, their contributions to society recognized only by their peers and sponsors. For making science in the Southwest more accessible to a larger audience, Tennessee Tech University History Professor George Webb has won the 2003 Gaspar Pérez de Villagrá Award from the Historical Society of New Mexico.

His most recent book, "Science in the American Southwest" (University of Arizona Press, 2002), illustrates the historical context of the region's breakthroughs in astronomy, archaeology, agriculture and more. It was among numerous texts, monographs and articles nominated for the award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the preservation and exploration of New Mexico's history, says Santa Fe resident Nancy Dimit López, a board member of the Historical Society of New Mexico.

" We thought Dr. Webb's book was invaluable for a number of reasons, certainly for its compilation of the work of Southwestern scientists, but also for gathering together so many people, people most of us would never have known about," said López. "He tells us of research that otherwise would have remained known only in the small circle of scientific journals; his book makes these men and women available to much larger readership."

The award, which was announced at the society's annual conference earlier this month, is named for Captain Villagrá, a Spanish poet and soldier who arrived in New Mexico as a member of Don Juan de Oñate's 1598 expedition. Villagrá's epic poem "La Historia de Nueva España" has been described as the first published history portraying part of what would become the United States.

" Science in the American Southwest" traces the region's scientific movements from their origins to present day. Throughout the book, Webb shows how science and culture are intertwined in the region's development. Ferenc Szasz, author of "The Day the Sun Rose Twice: The Story of the Trinity Site Nuclear Explosion," calls it "a solidly researched book — indeed, the very first one to discuss the role of science in the American Southwest. These excellent observations, linking science and region over time, deserve to be better known."

Webb, who joined the Tennessee Tech history faculty in 1978, earned a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona. He's the author of "Tree Rings and Telescopes: The Scientific Career of A.E. Douglass" (University of Arizona Press, 1983) and "The Evolution Controversy in America" (University Press of Kentucky, 1994), which was nominated for awards from the History of Science Society and the Society for Social Studies of Science.

A frequent contributor to numerous professional journals and reference works, he's written more than 100 articles, essays, papers and reviews, including an article and book review in the "New Mexico Historical Review" and three presentations at Historical Society of New Mexico conferences.