Neil M. Maher is a professor of history and master teacher in the Federated History Department at New Jersey Institute of Technology. He studies environmental and political history in the 20th century, urban history and the history of environmental justice.
Maher has earned fellowships, awards, and grants from institutions such as the Smithsonian Institution, NASA, Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University and Ludwig Maximilian University’s Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in Munich, Germany.
Maher’s writing has appeared in academic journals like Modern American History, Social History and Environmental History, online publications and blogs such as the History News Network and The Edge of the American West and popular news outlets, including the New York Times and The Washington Post.
He has served as historical advisor for PBS’s American Experience documentary film series and as a guest in podcasts, including the Moonrise miniseries by the Washington Post and a Green New Deal discussion with Naomi Klein on Intercepted.
Maher’s books include Apollo in the Age of Aquarius (Harvard University Press, 2017), which was named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title, a Bloomberg View Must Read Book, a Smithsonian Best Book and earned the Eugene M. Emme best book award from the American Astronautical Society. His first book, Nature’s New Deal: The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Roots of the American Environmental Movement (Oxford University Press, 2008), received the Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Book Award for the best monograph in conservation history.
Areas of Expertise (6)
History of Environmental Justice
20th Century US Environmental and Political History
Master Teacher, New Jersey Institute of Technology (professional)
Robert W. Van Houten Award for Teaching Excellence, New Jersey Institute of Technology (professional)
Excellence in Advising Award, NJIT Undergraduate Student Senate (professional)
New York University: Ph.D., US History 2001
Dartmouth College: B.A., History 1986
New York University: M.A., US History 1997
- Federated History Department at NJIT Rutgers, Newark
- Rutgers New Brunswick History Department
- NJIT Science, Technology and Society Program
- Rutgers, Newark American Studies Program
- NJIT-Rutgers, Newark Urban Systems Program
Media Appearances (6)
Space & the Sixties: Neil Maher
Science History Podcast radio
The 60s hosted the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union, which occurred in the midst of the Vietnam War, the Cold War, and civil unrest. How did the culture wars of the 1960s relate to the space race, especially in the United States? How did the Civil Rights Movement, the New Left, environmentalism, the women’s movement, and the Hippie counterculture influence NASA, and vice versa? With us to answer these questions is Neil Maher.
The Apollo Program Had a Surprising Close Relationship With 1960s Counterculture
History Unplugged Podcast radio
The summer of 1969 saw astronauts land on the moon for the first time and hippie hordes descend on Woodstock for a legendary music festival. For today’s guest, Neil M. Maher, author of the book Apollo in the Age of Aquarius, the conjunction of these two era-defining events is not entirely coincidental. He argues that the celestial aspirations of NASA’s Apollo space program were tethered to terrestrial concerns, from the civil rights struggle and the antiwar movement to environmentalism, feminism, and the counterculture.
AOC’s plan for a 1.5 million-strong Civilian Climate Corps, explained
Paul sees these measures as a way to right historical wrongs. Back in the 1930s, the original CCC segregated work camps and excluded women (except for a few “She-She-She” camps that Eleanor Roosevelt got running). Neil Maher, author of the book Nature’s New Deal and a history professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, said that the original CCC program — which placed camps in rural areas — was also “geographically discriminatory” in that it largely ignored urban people and their problems.
A Conversation about the Civilian Conservation Corps, with Neil Maher
Resources Radio radio
In this episode, host Kristin Hayes talks with Neil Maher about the history of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Maher, a professor of history at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers University-Newark, elaborates on this famous New Deal Program, which employed more than three million young men in conservation jobs during the 1930s and left an indelible mark on the natural areas of the United States.
Biden’s Civilian Climate Corps comes straight out of the New Deal
But making it work could prove to be a complicated task. “The original CCC was extremely popular, but it also had some problems,” said Neil Maher, the author of Nature’s New Deal and a history professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The Corps’ history provides insights — encouraging signs and cautionary lessons — for how the Biden administration could structure and promote the program.
Escape From the Nuclear Family: Covid-19 Should Provoke a Re-Think of How We Live
The Intercept radio
This week on Intercepted: guest host Naomi Klein argues that it’s time for some big bold thinking about how we can safely live, work, and learn with the virus — and maybe even enjoy ourselves. [...] Klein is also joined by NJIT historian Neil Maher to discuss how a reboot of the New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps could provide opportunities for young adults to find work, battle climate disruption, and live in their own communities of peers.
Biden Needs to Go Big to Rebuild AmericaYes! Magazine
During his first 100 days in office, President Joe Biden will face three deepening crises involving a global pandemic, economic stagnation, and continuing disruptions caused by climate change. While this perfect storm of social, economic, and environmental emergencies may feel unprecedented, Americans during the 1930s faced a similar triple threat.
Not Everyone Wanted a Man on the MoonThe New York Times
Neil M Maher
2019 Fifty years ago this week, more than a million Americans drove, flew and even boated to Florida’s Cape Canaveral to witness the launch of Apollo 11, which would culminate four days later on July 20, 1969, with America’s victory over the Soviet Union in the race to the moon. Less than a month later, nearly 500,000 young people caravanned, hitchhiked and walked through standstill traffic to the Woodstock music festival in upstate New York, where they danced in rain and mud to songs critical of the country, especially for its involvement in the Vietnam War. How could these two events, which seemed worlds apart, have taken place so close together?
How Many Times Does a River Have to Burn Before It Matters?The New York Times
Neil M. Maher
It was like a game of telephone. In the first whispers, which appeared in local newspapers on June 23, 1969, Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River didn’t burn. A floating oil slick did, for only 25 minutes, damaging a couple of train trestles. In the next telling, which appeared in Time magazine a month later, the heavily polluted river “burst into flames” and “nearly destroyed” the trestles. The photograph accompanying the article showed firefighters frantically spraying down a boat surrounded by flaming water.
The keys to ensuring that a Green New Deal succeedsThe Washington Post
Neil M Maher
2019 The Green New Deal is gaining momentum, with Democratic presidential contenders laying out climate change plans that echo the original initiative proposed earlier by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Yet such proposals continue to focus on the national level, ignoring the need to motivate local communities and international governments in the fight against climate change. To broaden the impact of these federal plans, Ocasio-Cortez and others should take a page from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, which was already green, thoroughly grass-roots and eventually went global. As Roosevelt reminded Congress in 1937, “it is not wise to direct everything from Washington. National planning should start at the bottom.”
Bringing the Environment Back In: A Transnational History of LandsatHow Knowledge Moves
Neil M Maher
2019 In the spring of 1976, as the US government made preparations to cel-ebrate the country’s bicentennial during the upcoming July Fourth holiday, the United Nations published the quarterly report of the Mekong Committee. Although the committee had originated back in 1957 to promote the development of Southeast Asia’s lower Mekong River basin through large-scale dams and irrigation projects, this particular report publicized scientific data captured by orbiting satellites developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). To make this scientific information more legible, the report included a fullpage map of parts of Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam that was overlaid with ten orbital tracks of one of NASA’s satellites (see fig. 7.1).
From Moon Maids to Astronauts: How Feminists Transformed the Space RacePBS American Experience
Neil M. Maher
2019 Protests taking place inside NASA’s Mission Control were only the tip of the iceberg. "The Rise and Fall of Lunar Royalty," which American Experience has republished from the January 1974Texas Monthly, describes a remarkable protest that took place during the preceding summer inside NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
Grounding the Space RaceModern American History
Neil M Maher
2018 On July 15, 1969, while more than one million space enthusiasts flocked to Florida's Cape Canaveral to celebrate the final countdown of the Apollo 11 launch the following day, a less festive gathering took place just a few miles away in an empty field outside the western gate of the Kennedy Space Center. On one side of the clearing stood NASA's chief, Thomas O. Paine, with several space agency administrators, while at the other end waited the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's (SCLC) president, Ralph Abernathy, with twenty-five poor African American families, four scruffy mules pulling two rickety wagons, and, much to Paine's dismay, a phalanx of newspaper reporters and television news crews.
Prelude to the Dust Bowl: Drought in the Nineteenth-Century Southern PlainsThe Journal of American History
Neil M Maher
2017 Similar to a boisterous guest who stays too long at a holiday party, drought remains a persistent, and disruptive, visitor in Kevin Z. Sweeney's Prelude to the Dust Bowl. The book not only uncovers the history of four major early droughts that have been overshadowed historically by the more famous “dirty thirties” of the early twentieth century but it also argues that these severe dry spells shaped the history of a region that includes present-day Texas, Oklahoma, northeastern New Mexico, southeastern Colorado, and southern Kansas. “Climate and short-term climate change,” Sweeney argues, “were pervasive factors underlying all of the others, including relations between Native people and non-Indians, military operations, economic concerns, and even slavery debates” (p. xiii).