Elting E. Morison

Elting Morison (1909–1995) was an American historian of technology, biographer, author, and essayist. A professor at MIT for many years, he founded MIT's program in Science, Technology, and Society.

  • Men, Machines, and Modern Times, 50th Anniversary Edition

    Men, Machines, and Modern Times, 50th Anniversary Edition

    Elting E. Morison

    An engaging look at how we have learned to live with innovation and new technologies through history.

    People have had trouble adapting to new technology ever since (perhaps) the inventor of the wheel had to explain that a wheelbarrow could carry more than a person. This little book by a celebrated MIT professor—the fiftieth anniversary edition of a classic—describes how we learn to live and work with innovation. Elting Morison considers, among other things, the three stages of users' resistance to change: ignoring it; rational rebuttal; and name-calling. He recounts the illustrative anecdote of the World War II artillerymen who stood still to hold the horses despite the fact that the guns were now hitched to trucks—reassuring those of us who have trouble with a new interface or a software upgrade that we are not the first to encounter such problems.

    Morison offers an entertaining series of historical accounts to highlight his major theme: the nature of technological change and society's reaction to that change. He begins with resistance to innovation in the U.S. Navy following an officer's discovery of a more accurate way to fire a gun at sea; continues with thoughts about bureaucracy, paperwork, and card files; touches on rumble seats, the ghost in Hamlet, and computers; tells the strange history of a new model steamship in the 1860s; and describes the development of the Bessemer steel process. Each instance teaches a lesson about the more profound and current problem of how to organize and manage systems of ideas, energies, and machinery so that it will conform to the human dimension.

    • Paperback $19.95 £15.99
  • Men, Machines, and Modern Times

    Men, Machines, and Modern Times

    Elting E. Morison

    Offers an entertaining series of historical accounts taken from the nineteenth century to highlight a main theme: the nature of technological change, the fission brought about in society by such change, and society's reaction to that change.

    Men, Machines, and Modern Times, though ultimately concerned with a positive alternative to an Orwellian 1984, offers an entertaining series of historical accounts taken from the nineteenth century to highlight a main theme: the nature of technological change, the fission brought about in society by such change, and society's reaction to that change.

    Beginning with a remarkable illustration of resistance to innovation in the U.S. Navy following an officer's discovery of a more accurate way to fire a gun at sea, Elting Morison goes on to narrate the strange history of the new model steamship, the Wapanoag, in the 1860s. He then continues with the difficulties confronting the introduction of the pasteurization process for milk; he traces the development of the Bessemer process; and finally, he considers the computer. While the discussions are liberally sprinkled with amusing examples and anecdotes, all are related to the more profound and current problem of how to organize and manage system of ideas, energies, and machinery so that it will conform to the human dimension.

    • Hardcover $15.00 £11.99
    • Paperback $19.75 £15.99

Contributor

  • Science and the Educated Man

    Selected Speeches of Julius A. Stratton

    Julius A. Stratton

    Addressed to the whole body of educated men, these speeches and talks from the decade 1956-1965 were originally prepared for delivery before administrators and managers, educators and students, scientists and engineers, and the general public; indeed, their chief concern is with the increasing intersection of the fields of activity of these once divergent groups.

    Julius Stratton, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Ford Foundation and former President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is especially well qualified to discuss these matters. Long before the Sputnik-spurred reappraisal of American education, he advocated – and implemented – broadened content and rigorous method in scientific education and a strong coupling between teaching and research as the driving force of scientific advance. And he eloquently affirms here the public responsibility of the university, which must involve itself with the larger society it serves and shapes. Conversely, he feels that the public – through the use of federal funds – is properly involved with the university and that the university is the natural agency for undertaking government-sponsored research. On this basis, he pointedly argues that the public will be best served in the long run if it allows the university to operate with maximum academic freedom and self-direction.

    Likewise, the relation between the scientist and the general public is seen here as a bilateral one. Clearly, the scientist must be more deeply educated in the humanities and social sciences, and his role as a citizen who can make special contributions to public debate and administration must be both more active and more realistically defined. At the same time, the public does not understand the nature of science nearly well enough; the educated man will learn that science itself has intrinsic moral values and embodies modes of thinking that have universal validity. In short, Dr. Stratton would encourage a greater mutual interaction among the disciplines: “The task of articulating or welding together these components of learning into systems of understanding offers the highest intellectual challenge of our time.” He feels that although a détente has been established between the “two cultures,” a free trade of ideas is still a distant hope.

    In regard to engineering education, Dr. Stratton proposes innovations in two directions. On the one hand, he envisions the “scientist-engineer” – an engineer who can work at fully scientific levels of rigor, who can communicate with the scientist as an equal partner, and whose sense of profession is inwardly ingrained as well as outwardly expressed; this, he submits, will attract still better minds into the engineering professions. And on the other hand, he describes the “manager-engineer” as one trained to give direction to advancing technology and to relate it to the real needs of our society.

    The central theme that underlies these various considerations is clearly sounded in the title address: “We must allow no gulf to grow between scientists and the great body of educated people. The education of scientists and engineers is now too serious a matter to remain wholly the concern of the profession itself. The liberal education of all people is a matter of equal moment to us as scientists.”

    • Hardcover $9.95 £7.99