Office Hours Air: Caroline Winterer on ‘The Apes and Us’ and understanding the past

Feb. 2, 2024, 12:18 a.m.

Caroline Winterer has been fascinated by dinosaurs since her childhood. She remembers thumbing through illustrations of prehistory growing up, intrigued by the distant past. In her forthcoming book, “How the New World Became Old,” the Stanford history professor honors her inner child with a historian’s eye for change over time — deep time. 

Coined by the writer John McPhee, “deep time” refers to the new idea that Earth is not thousands of years old but millions, indeed billions, as modern scientists established last century. An intellectual historian and historian of science, Winterer tells the story of how the idea of deep time transformed the worldviews of 19th-century Americans, from scientists to artists to ministers to ordinary Americans. 

In this episode of “Office Hours Air,” Winterer discusses her upcoming book, her formation as a historian and her philosophy of teaching. Winterer also discusses her ongoing exhibit in Green Library’s Hohbach Hall, co-curated with history professor Jessica Riskin: “Apes and Us: A Century of Representations of Our Closest Relatives.” The exhibit features some dozen painted portraits of apes and monkeys by the Austrian painter Gabriel von Max, as well as six display cases on major themes in historical human thinking on apes and an interactive wall. Open to the public at no cost, “The Apes and Us” is on display in Green Library until June 2024. 

Office Hours Air is a new Daily podcast and radio program. The show, created and hosted by Noah Sveiven, features guests in conversation about their work and the experiences in their lives that drew them to that work. Sveiven hopes the program will be of interest to anyone interested in exploring new ideas and ways of thinking, especially undergraduates discerning their callings. Office Hours Air is produced weekly and available online on all major podcast platforms. A one-hour version of each show is also broadcast in the Bay Area on KZSU Stanford Radio 90.1 FM, Thursday mornings from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. 

Sveiven is a first year undergraduate student with interests in ethics, law, politics, history, and environmental science. He is from Southern California.

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