History of Technology

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Upcoming Meetings

There are no currently scheduled upcoming events.

Past Meetings

  • October 19, 2021

    Sam Schirvar, University of Pennsylvania
    "The Politics of Stress: Human Factors Engineering, Occupational Health, and Air Traffic Control, 1968-1981"
    Many conditions in the 1970s United States seemed to indicate that it was an opportune time to address stress as a workplace hazard. Both the federal government and the public demanded research on workplace stress. The decade saw the closest alliances between technical experts and workers in US history as striking coal miners finally won protection from black lung disease and newly created federal agencies went on to regulate numerous workplace hazards. Why then were workers in the United States unable to win significant protections against workplace stress? To answer this question, this paper explores encounters between stress researchers and workers, focusing on human factors specialists and air traffic controllers. Human factors specialists promised to manage worker stress to reduce the risk of disastrous failures in systems like nuclear power plants and airports. They made air traffic controllers, widely seen as the most stressful occupation, their exemplar subjects. At the same time, air traffic controllers placed occupational stress at the center of their grievances leading up to and during the 1981 Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) strike. Both efforts failed. This paper uses the professional literature of occupational health and human factors, government reports, and the PATCO archives to show how the epistemic and political struggles of stress researchers and workers were intertwined. I argue that the power to define stress remained with the workers, and making stress an occupational hazard relied on them winning political struggles in the workplace.

  • September 21, 2021

    Zachary M. Mann, University of Southern California.
    "Reading Note G: Ada Lovelace and the Secretarial Labor of Codework."

  • April 20, 2021

    Justin Castro, Arkansas State University; Linda Hall Library. Title: Introduction to "Technocratic Visions: Engineers, Technology, and Society in Mexico, 1876-1946."

  • March 16, 2021

    Mario Bianchini, Georgia Institute of Technology; Linda Hall Library. "The Perfect(able) German Body: Sport as Technological Utopianism in East Germany."

  • February 16, 2021

    Johan Gärdebo, Thematic Studies in Environmental Change, Linköping University. "Following the verbs: How 'Observing the Earth' eventually became the Earth observation satellite SPOT, 1975-1995."

  • November 17, 2020

    William Vogel, University of Minnesota. "Negotiating Cultures of Concealment: Scientists, the Military, and Biological Weapons"  

  • October 20, 2020

    Eric Hintz, Lemelson Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. "Moneyball: the Computational Turn in Professional Sports" 

  • September 15, 2020

    Barbara Hahn, Texas Tech University. Introduction to Technology in the Industrial Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2020).

  • April 21, 2020

    Emily Gibson, Office of Legislative and Public Affairs, National Science Foundation, "Technology and Policy: Applied research and engineering at the National Science Foundation during the 1970s" 

  • March 17, 2020

    *Note special time*
    Junaidu Danladi, Bayero University, Kan0-Nigeria, "Public Perceptions and Resistance to Piped Water in Kano City, 1924-1945"

Group Conveners

  • jalexander's picture

    Jennifer Alexander

    Jennifer Alexander is an Associate Professor of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine at the University of Minnesota, with specialization in technology and religion; industrial culture; and engineering, ethics, and society.  Her publications include The Mantra of Efficiency: From Waterwheel to Social Control (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008). Her current project is a book manuscript analyzing the international religious critique of technology that developed following WWII.  She asks how religious and theological interpretations of technology have changed over time; how, over time, technologies and engineering have extended their reach into the human world over time through a developing technological orthodoxy; and how these changes have affected each other.


  • grossbLHL's picture

    Benjamin Gross

    Benjamin Gross is Vice President for Research and Scholarship at the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, Missouri. He is responsible for managing the Library’s scholarly outreach initiatives, including its fellowship program. Before relocating to the Midwest in 2016, he was a research fellow at the Science History Institute and consulting curator of the Sarnoff Collection at the College of New Jersey. His book, The TVs of Tomorrow: How RCA’s Flat-Screen Dreams Led to the First LCDs, was published in 2018 by the University of Chicago Press.



  • zmmann's picture

    Zachary Mann

    Zachary M. Mann is a Consortium Research Fellow and Ph.D. Candidate in Literature at the University of Southern California. Currently he is also a Mellon-Council for European Studies fellow. Previously he was a Mellon Humanities in a Digital World fellow and a Ransom Center fellow. His work focuses on the intersections of literature, media, and histories of technology, and his dissertation traces the co-evolutions of punch card technology and conceptions of authorship from the eighteenth century to today.


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