Photo: Sofia Runarsdotter and Enrique Díaz / 7cero, Getty Images (modified)

Sverker Sörlin was Associate Director for the Center for History of Science in the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 1988–1990, and the founding director of the Swedish Institute for Studies in Education and Research, SISTER (2000–2003). 2006–2009 he chaired the Swedish committee for the International Polar Year. 1994–1998 and 2005–2009 he served on the Swedish Government’s Research Advisory Board, and he is currently a member of the Swedish Climate Policy Council.

His research areas include science history, research policy, popular history, cultural criticism, environmental humanities, innovation studies and more. He frequently appears in Swedish media, and writes popular science and narrative non-fiction.

Sverker has been active at prominent institutes and universities in several countries and has recently published a book on the history of the environment: The Environment – A History of the Idea.


14.30 Welcome and introduction by co-organizers

  • Dan Larhammar, President, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
  • Astrid Söderbergh Widding, Vice Chancellor, Stockholm University
  • Måns Nilsson, Executive Director, Stockholm Environment Institute

14.45 Memorial lecture: The ‘environment’ – Unearthing the past, present and future of one of the most successful policy concepts of the twentieth century

  • Sverker Sörlin, professor in environmental history at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden

15.30 Coffee break

15.45 Panel discussion

  • Sverker Sörlin
  • Fiona Lambe, research fellow, Stockholm Environment Institute
  • Rebecka Le Moine, conservation biologist and member of parliament for the Swedish Green Party
  • Olle Torpman, researcher in philosophy, Stockholm University
  • Moderator TBA

16.45 Concluding remarks

  • Åsa Persson, Research Director, Stockholm Environment Institute

17.00 Mingle and refreshments

Lecture topic

The ‘environment’ – Unearthing the past, present and future of one of the most successful policy concepts of the twentieth century

This lecture will be a journey through the history of the concept ‘environment’ and the changes of its meaning. When was it first used, and in what contexts and by whom? What does the word actually refer to? How did it become so successful in science, in culture, in politics?

Sverker Sörlin will be drawing on the recent and widely acclaimed book by himself and co-authors Paul Warde, Cambridge University and Libby Robin, The Australian National University, titled: The Environment – A History of the Idea (Johns Hopkins University Press).

It is 2019 and the word ‘environment’ is becoming a possible victim of its own success what is not related to environment? Its important early property, to be relevant for anything and everything, is starting to weigh on it and opens the space for contenders words such as ‘sustainability’, ‘planet’, or ‘Anthropocene’. What is happening to the concept today and what may the future bring?

About the memorial lecture

This annual memorial lecture is held in honour of Gordon Goodman, founding director of the Beijer Institute at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences from 1977–1989 and the Stockholm Environment Institute from 1989–1991.

How to register

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