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History of Technology

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Electricity in American Life and Letters, 1882–1952

At the turn of the twentieth century, electricity emerged as a metaphor for modernity. Writers from Mark Twain to Ralph Ellison grappled with the idea of electricity as both life force (illumination) and death spark (electrocution). The idea that electrification created exclusively modern experiences took hold of Americans’ imaginations, whether they welcomed or feared its adoption.

The Birth of Computer Science

In 1936, when he was just twenty-four years old, Alan Turing wrote a remarkable paper in which he outlined the theory of computation, laying out the ideas that underlie all modern computers. This groundbreaking and powerful theory now forms the basis of computer science. In Turing’s Vision, Chris Bernhardt explains the theory, Turing’s most important contribution, for the general reader. Bernhardt argues that the strength of Turing’s theory is its simplicity, and that, explained in a straightforward manner, it is eminently understandable by the nonspecialist.

Patents, HIV/AIDS, and Race

In The Genealogy of a Gene, Myles Jackson uses the story of the CCR5 gene to investigate the interrelationships among science, technology, and society. Mapping the varied “genealogy” of CCR5—intellectual property, natural selection, Big and Small Pharma, human diversity studies, personalized medicine, ancestry studies, and race and genomics—Jackson links a myriad of diverse topics.

The History of an Idea

Models abound in science, technology, and society (STS) studies and in science, technology, and innovation (STI) studies. They are continually being invented, with one author developing many versions of the same model over time. At the same time, models are regularly criticized. Such is the case with the most influential model in STS-STI: the linear model of innovation.

Orality, Writing, Typography, and Printed Images in the History of Architectural Theory

The discipline of architecture depends on the transmission in space and time of accumulated experiences, concepts, rules, and models. From the invention of the alphabet to the development of ASCII code for electronic communication, the process of recording and transmitting this body of knowledge has reflected the dominant information technologies of each period. In this book Mario Carpo discusses the communications media used by Western architects, from classical antiquity to modern classicism, showing how each medium related to specific forms of architectural thinking.

Shaping an Industry and Its Technology

No company of the twentieth century achieved greater success and engendered more admiration, respect, envy, fear, and hatred than IBM. Building IBM tells the story of that company -- how it was formed, how it grew, and how it shaped and dominated the information processing industry.

A Revolutionary History of the Computer

In The Government Machine, Jon Agar traces the mechanization of government work in the United Kingdom from the nineteenth to the early twenty-first century. He argues that this transformation has been tied to the rise of "expert movements," groups whose authority has rested on their expertise. The deployment of machines was an attempt to gain control over state action—a revolutionary move.

Transforming Science and Sound

At the end of the nineteenth century, acoustics was a science of musical sounds; the musically trained ear was the ultimate reference. Just a few decades into the twentieth century, acoustics had undergone a transformation from a scientific field based on the understanding of classical music to one guided by electrical engineering, with industrial and military applications. In this book, Roland Wittje traces this transition, from the late nineteenth-century work of Hermann Helmholtz to the militarized research of World War I and media technology in the 1930s.

The Shaping of Modern Knowledge

A system can describe what we see (the solar system), operate a computer (Windows 10), or be made on a page (the fourteen engineered lines of a sonnet). In this book, Clifford Siskin shows that system is best understood as a genre—a form that works physically in the world to mediate our efforts to understand it. Indeed, many Enlightenment authors published works they called “system” to compete with the essay and the treatise.

Technoscientific Organisms and the History of Fascism

In the fascist regimes of Mussolini’s Italy, Salazar’s Portugal, and Hitler’s Germany, the first mass mobilizations involved wheat engineered to take advantage of chemical fertilizers, potatoes resistant to late blight, and pigs that thrived on national produce. Food independence was an early goal of fascism; indeed, as Tiago Saraiva writes in Fascist Pigs, fascists were obsessed with projects to feed the national body from the national soil.

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