Conevery Bolton Valencius (CON-a-very va-LEN-chus) grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, graduated from Little Rock Central High, took classes at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, then trekked out West to earn a BA in history at Stanford University in 1989.
She worked in San Francisco for several years in freelance writing and editing and in social service agencies, then decided she missed academic work and took a Greyhound bus cross country to attend Harvard. In 1998, she earned a PhD in the History of Science. Shortly after, she drove halfway back across the country to Washington University in St. Louis, to take a position as Assistant Professor in the departments of History, American Culture Studies, and Environmental Studies. While at Wash U she published The Health of the Country: How American Settlers Understood Themselves and Their Land (Basic Books, 2002), which won several prizes in writing and environmental history. She then decided to take a hiatus to raise a few children and finish her next book.
In 2004, she moved back East, and worked as a free-range historian under grants from the NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities) and the Dibner Institute for the History of Science. She taught several terms at Harvard University and with the NEH Teaching American History program. In 2011, with children and book manuscript both considerably larger, she very happily accepted a teaching position at UMass Boston, where she teaches the history of the American Civil War and Reconstruction, U.S. environmental history, and the history of science, technology, and medicine.
Her recent projects have focused on the history of earthquakes and seismology, the history of the environmental sciences, and journeys of trade and exploration in the American West.