Professor Iain McCalman



Areas of expertise: Modern British and European Cultural History From Eighteenth Century to Twentieth Centuries; Modern Central African History; Australian Environmental Humanities; Popular British Radicalism; Darwinism; British Romanticism; History and Philosophy of Science.


Location: ACU Melbourne Campus

Professor Iain Duncan McCalman, AO, FRHistS, FASSA, FAHA, FRSN was born in Malawi, Africa, schooled in Zimbabwe, and earned his BA, MA and PhD in Melbourne and Canberra, Australia. He recently retired from a position as Research Professor of History and Co-Director of the Sydney Environment Institute at the University of Sydney. He has held many Visiting Research Fellowships in Britain and the United States, including at All Souls and Oriel Colleges, Oxford, Princeton,New Jersey, and as a Mellon Visiting Professor at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.

Iain is a Fellow and former President of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, and a Fellow of three other Learned Academies in Australia and Britain, and is a Professor Emeritus of the University of Sydney and the Australian National University. He was Director of the Humanities Research Centre at the Australian National University, Canberra, from 1995 until 2002. He was made an Officer of Australia for Services to History and the Humanities in 2007. He has written and edited more than fourteen books and numerous articles on modern British, European and Australian cultural history and has also been a historical consultant and narrator for a several BBC, ABC and commercial TV and film documentaries.

Select publications

  • McCalman (2013, 2014, 2020) The Reef: A Passionate History. Sydney: Penguin, 2013,2014, 2020; New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014; London: Scribe, 2014.
  • McCalman (2009, 2010), Darwin’s Armada: How four voyagers to Australasia won the battle for evolution and changed the world. Melbourne, Viking/Penguin, 2009. Also published as Darwin’s Armada: Four Voyagers to the Southern Oceans and their Battle for the Theory of Evolution (London, Simon and Schuster, 2009); Darwin’s Armada: Four Voyages and the Battle for the Theory of Evolution (New York, WW Norton, 2009). Translated into Arabic and Chinese, 2010.)
  • McCalman, (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006) The Seven Ordeals of Count Cagliostro: The Greatest Enchanter of the Eighteenth Century Harper Collins/Flamingo, Sydney; Random House/Century, London. Also published as The Last Alchemist (New York, 2003). New format paperback editions in the USA (Harper Collins, 2004), in Britain (Random House, 2004) and Australia (Flamingo, 2004). Foreign language editions include a Korean edition (Booksea Publishing, Seoul 2003), Japanese, Spanish and German editions in 2004, a Czech edition (Vysehrad Publishers, Prague, 2005), a Portuguese edition (Pergaminho, 2005), and an Estonian edition, Cagliostro. Maag Mõistuse Sajandil (Tallinn, Kunst, 2006), a Russian edition, and an Italian edition (2006)
  • McCalman (1999), An Oxford Companion to the Romantic Age: British Culture, 1776–1832. Oxford, Oxford University Press. Reprinted 2000; revised paperback edition, 2001.
  • McCalman (2019), ‘Encountering Living Corals: A Nineteenth Century Scientist and Artist Reveals the Underwater Realm’ in Margaret Cohen and Killian Quigley (eds.) The Aesthetics of the Undersea (New York: Routledge, 20190.
  • McCalman (2017), ‘Linking the Local and the Global. What Today’s Environmental Humanities Movement Can Learn from Their Predecessors Successful Leadership of the 1965-1975 War to Save the Great Barrier Reef,’ Humanities 2017, 6(4) 77, 16 0ct. 2017.,
  • McCalman (2015), ‘Humanities and the Environment—A Manifesto for Research and Action’ Humanities, 4, pp. 977–992; doi: 10.3390/h4040977.
  • McCalman (2015), ‘Saving the Great Barrier Reef’, ed. Kathy Marks, The Power of the Humanities: Case Studies from Leading Australian Researchers. Canberra, Australian Academy of the Humanities.
  • McCalman, (2014), ‘The Great Coral Grief’, Scientific American, May, pp. 66–70.
  • McCalman (2014),‘Joseph Jukes’ Epiphanies’ in Ashley Hay (ed.) The Best Australian Science Writing Sydney: New South Publishing.


  • ARC Discovery Project, ‘Understanding Australia in the Age of Humans: Localising the Anthropocene’, 2016-19, Chief CI.
  • UNESCO Environment, Internationalism and Heritage Grant, ‘Documenting UNESCO Australia’, 2014–2015, Co-CI
  • ARC Linkage Grant, ‘Cultures of Coast and Sea: Maritime, Environmental and Ethnographic Histories of Australia’, 2011–2015, Chief CI.
  • ARC Discovery Grant, ‘Redeeming the Great Barrier Reef’, 2011–2015, Chief CI.
  • Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, John E. Sawyer Seminar on Comparative Cultures, ‘The Antipodean Laboratory: Humanity, Sovereignty and Environment in the Southern Oceans’, Chief CI.
  • ARC Linkage Grant, ‘Seeing Change: Science, Culture and Environment in the Antipodes—From the Age of Darwin—A Multimedia Research Collaboration’, 2007-2012, Chief CI.
  • ARC Discovery Grant, ‘Scientific Voyages in the Antipodes’, 2007–2010, Chief CI.
  • ARC Linkage Grant, ‘Seeing Change: Science, Culture and Technology in the Antipodes’, 2007–2011, Chief CI.

Accolades and Awards

  • The Royal Society, London, Invitation Lecture, ‘Adventures in the Indo-Pacific, Joseph Banks in Australia’, 2017.
  • Royal Society of New Zealand, The Aronui Lectures, ‘The Great Barrier Reef’, 2016
  • Webby International (USA) Honore Award, Education Section, Best Website, 2015
  • Special Commendation, Rachel Carson Prize, (USA), ‘The Reef—A Passionate History’, 2015.
  • Commendation, ‘The Economist’, ‘The Reef—A Passionate History’: ‘Best Books of the Year’ 2015
  • Inaugural CHASS Australia Prize, ‘The Reef—A Passionate History’ (Council for Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences), 2014
  • Fellow, Royal Society of New South Wales, 2010
  • Western Australian Premier’s Prize for Non-fiction, ‘Darwin’s Armada’, 2009.
  • Sid Harta Literature Award, Darwin’s Armada, 2009
  • Frank Broeze Prize for Marine and Maritime History, ‘Darwin’s Armada’, 2009
  • Fellowship of Australian Writers Award for Non-Fiction,’ Darwins Armada’, 2009.
  • Officer of the Order of Australia, Services to History and the Humanities, 
  • Australian Reseach Council, Federation Fellow, 2007-2007.
  • Inaugural Vice Chancellor’s Prize for Teaching Excellence, Australian National University, 1992
  • Fellow Australian Academy of the Humanities, 1996
  • Fellow, Royal Historical Society, Great Britain, 1992
  • Fellow Australian Academy of Social Sciences, 1992

Appointments and Affiliations

  • Director and Professor,Sydney Environment Institute, University of Sydney, 2011-2019
  • Director, Australia-Pacific Observatory for Environmental Humanities, Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes, 200
  • Professor and Director, Humanities Research Centre, Australian National University, 1995–2003
  • Deputy Director, Australian Research Council Special Research Centre for Cross-Cultural Research, Australian National University1997–1998
  • Steering Committee and Managing Board, Future Earth (Australia), Australian Consortium of Learned Academies, 2017
  • Australian Observatory Delegate to the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes for Drafting an International Environmental Humanities Manifesto, Phoenix, Arizona, May, 2015
  • Head, Australian Delegation to the European Consortium of Humanities Institutes and Centers, Stockholm, March, 2013
  • Chair, Advisory Board, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, 2012-2018.
  • President, Australian Academy of the Humanities, 2001-2004

Editorial Roles

  • General Editor, Routledge Earthspan, Environmental Humanities Book Series, 2013-2019
  • General Editor, The Enlightenment World Series, Pickering and Chatto Publishers, 2007-2015

Public Engagement

  • Member, Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council, 2005–2008.
  • Writer and Presenter, Northern Dogs Films, ‘Chains of Rescue’,‘Lost in the Labyrinth’, ‘The Beachcomber’s Paradise’, 2014
  • Co-Writer and Presenter, Look Films, ‘Norfolk Island: The Polynesians’, ‘Norfolk Island: The First Convict Settlement’, ‘Norfolk Island: The Second Convict Settlement’, ‘Norfolk Island: The Pitcairners’ , 2011–2012
  • Consultant and Presenter, Screenworld (Australia), Ferns Productions (Canada), Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, History (UK), ZDF/Arte (Germany/France), ‘Darwin’s Brave New World’, based on ‘Darwin’s Armada’
  • Historical Consultant, Macleay Museum, University of Sydney, ‘Accidental Encounters: TH Huxley and the Rattlesnake in the Coral Sea’, exhibition, 2009.
  • Historical Consultant, Australian National Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour, Sydney, ‘Charles Darwin: Ideas and Voyages that Shook the World’, exhibition, 2009.
  • Writer Commentator, Viz Lab, Australian National University, ‘The Eidophusikon, An Eighteenth-Century Movie Show’, multi-media performance and DVD, 2006


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