Montana State University

MSU historian wins prize for book on Butte, Utah copper mines

April 2, 2010 -- MSU News Service


This book by MSU historian Timothy J. LeCain recently won the George Perkins Marsh Prize for the best new book in environmental history.   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
msunews@montana.edu
BOZEMAN -- Montana State University historian Timothy J. LeCain recently received the prestigious George Perkins Marsh Prize for the best new book in environmental history.

The award-winning book, Mass Destruction: The Men and Giant Mines that Wired America and Scarred the Planet, tells the story of two enormous open pit copper mines, the Berkeley Pit in Butte and the Bingham Pit in Utah. The American Society for Environmental History presented the prize to LeCain during its March meeting in Portland, Ore.

The ASEH prize committee praised LeCain's book as "a great read" that is also "gutsy, eloquently written and narrated, and carefully argued." The result is a book that "takes the reader on a marvelous journey, which starts with cosmic super-giant stars and their role in the creation of copper and ends with the engineers that built the technologies of ‛mass destruction' to access the king metal."

LeCain, an associate professor in MSU's Department of History and Philosophy, spent nearly a decade researching and writing Mass Destruction, but said his fascination with Butte's Berkeley Pit goes back to his early childhood. Born and raised in Missoula, LeCain vividly remembers visiting the Berkeley Pit as a young boy.

"I was fascinated by the pit and the giant shovels and trucks, but also a bit troubled and frightened," LeCain said, explaining that Butte and the pit seemed shockingly different and distant from the family's home in Missoula Valley.

"In a sense, Mass Destruction is an outgrowth of that vague boyhood sense that my sheltered life in Missoula somehow depended on that harsh industrial world in Butte," LeCain said.

Previous recipients of the Marsh Prize include eminent authors and historians like William Cronin, Elliot West, Thomas Andrews, and Karl Jacoby. The prize is named after the 19th Century American scholar and writer, George Perkins Marsh, who is often cited as the nation's first environmentalist. His insights into the role of forests in preserving water supplies influenced the creation of the Adirondack Park in upstate New York, one of the nation's earliest large-scale nature preserves.

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu