Merritt Roe Smith

Merritt Roe Smith is Cutten Professor of the History of Technology at MIT and the author or editor of six books, most recently Inventing America: A History of the United States.

  • Reconceptualizing the Industrial Revolution

    Reconceptualizing the Industrial Revolution

    Jeff Horn, Leonard N Rosenband, and Merritt Roe Smith

    Closely linked essays examine distinctive national patterns of industrialization.

    This collection of essays offers new perspectives on the Industrial Revolution as a global phenomenon. The fifteen contributors go beyond the longstanding view of industrialization as a linear process marked by discrete stages. Instead, they examine a lengthy and creative period in the history of industrialization, 1750 to 1914, reassessing the nature of and explanations for England's industrial primacy, and comparing significant industrial developments in countries ranging from China to Brazil. Each chapter explores a distinctive national production ecology, a complex blend of natural resources, demographic pressures, cultural impulses, technological assets, and commercial practices. At the same time, the chapters also reveal the portability of skilled workers and the permeability of political borders. The Industrial Revolution comes to life in discussions of British eagerness for stylish, middle-class products; the Enlightenment's contribution to European industrial growth; early America's incremental (rather than revolutionary) industrialization; the complex connections between Czarist and Stalinist periods of industrial change in Russia; Japan's late and rapid turn to mechanized production; and Brazil's industrial-financial boom. By exploring unique national patterns of industrialization as well as reciprocal exchanges and furtive borrowing among these states, the book refreshes the discussion of early industrial transformations and raises issues still relevant in today's era of globalization.

    • Paperback $30.00 £24.00
  • Does Technology Drive History?

    Does Technology Drive History?

    The Dilemma of Technological Determinism

    Leo Marx and Merritt Roe Smith

    These thirteen essays explore a crucial historical questionthat has been notoriously hard to pin down: To what extent,and by what means, does a society's technology determine itspolitical, social, economic, and cultural forms?

    These thirteen essays explore a crucial historical question that has been notoriously hard to pin down: To what extent, and by what means, does a society's technology determine its political, social, economic, and cultural forms? Karl Marx launched the modern debate on determinism with his provocative remark that "the hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalist," and a classic article by Robert Heilbroner (reprinted here) renewed the debate within the context of the history of technology. This book clarifies the debate and carries it forward.Marx's position has become embedded in our culture, in the form of constant reminders as to how our fast-changing technologies will alter our lives. Yet historians who have looked closely at where technologies really come from generally support the proposition that technologies are not autonomous but are social products, susceptible to democratic controls. The issue is crucial for democratic theory. These essays tackle it head-on, offering a deep look at all the shadings of determinism and assessing determinist models in a wide variety of historical contexts.

    Contributors Bruce Bimber, Richard W. Bulliet, Robert L. Heilbroner, Thomas P. Hughes, Leo Marx, Thomas J. Misa, Peter C. Perdue, Philip Scranton, Merritt Roe Smith, Michael L. Smith, John M. Staudenmaier, Rosalind Williams

    • Hardcover $37.50 £28.95
    • Paperback $40.00 £30.00
  • Military Enterprise and Technological Change

    Perspectives on the American Experience

    Merritt Roe Smith

    Building "star wars" weapons systems, so the opposing arguments run, will either conscript technological development and divert it from the civilian economy-or it will further spur "high" technology innovations that will benefit everyone.Either way, this is only the most recent example of the complex military-industrial conflict/symbiosis that has spanned American history, but that has not been subjected to thorough study and debate until recent years. In this book, historians of technology bring their special expertise to probing the influence of the military on technological development over a broad range of history and in a variety of cases.Bracketed by Merritt Roe Smith's overview and Alex Roland's bibliographic review, the case studies explore the relationship between Army ordnance and the development of the "American system" of manufacturing; the Army Corp of Engineers and the origin of modern management in the course of the expansion of the railroads; the Navy's adoption of the radio; Henry Ford's attempt to apply his mass-production methods to military ends in the building of the Eagle Boat; the Army's first large-scale employment of social scientists during World War II and their role in shaping the postwar research agenda; the Army Signal Corp's entrepreneurial role in the development of the transistor; the Navy's far-flung and well-funded postwar research and development program; and the social implications of military and "scientific" management styles, in particular the efforts to militarize management practices in the civilian sector.

    The case studies are the work of David K. Allison, Peter Buck, Susan J. Douglas, David A. Hounshell, Thomas J. Misa, David F. Noble, Charles F. O'Connell, Jr., and the editor, Merritt Roe Smith.

    • Hardcover $65.00
    • Paperback $14.95

Contributor

  • Technology in America, Third Edition

    Technology in America, Third Edition

    A History of Individuals and Ideas

    Carroll Pursell

    The new edition of a popular collection that traces the history of American invention from the age of the artisan to the era of Silicon Valley.

    This volume traces the history of American technology—its inventions and inventors—from the age of the artisan to the era of Silicon Valley. The focus on inventors acknowledges that technology is a fundamental form of human behavior and that, ultimately, it is people who have the ideas, design the machines, and build the institutions. These accessible and succinct essays chronicle the work of the famous—among them, Thomas Jefferson, Eli Whitney, and Thomas Alva Edison—and of the sometimes forgotten—including Ellen Swallow Richards, the founder of the home economics movement. One illuminating essay shows how Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin helped Americans confront the modern technological age.This third edition retains the content of the first two editions and adds three new essays: on Rachel Carson and the rise of the environmental movement; on A. C. Gilbert and the development of an American toy industry; and on Lewis Latimer and the struggle of African Americans to gain recognition as professional inventors and engineers.

    Contributors Lawrence Badash, George Basalla, Robert V. Bruce, Jean Christie, Gail Cooper, Ruth Schwartz Cowan, James J. Flink, Barton C. Hacker, Samuel P. Hays, Brooke Hindle, Thomas Parke Hughes, Reese V. Jenkins, John A. Kouwenhoven, Edwin T. Layton Jr., W. David Lewis, Hugo A. Meier, Carroll Pursell, Adam Rome, Bruce Sinclair, Merritt Roe Smith, Darwin H. Stapleton, John William Ward, James C. Williams

    • Paperback $30.00 £24.00
  • Becoming MIT

    Becoming MIT

    Moments of Decision

    David Kaiser

    The evolution of MIT, as seen in a series of crucial decisions over the years.

    How did MIT become MIT? The Massachusetts Institute of Technology marks the 150th anniversary of its founding in 2011. Over the years, MIT has lived by its motto, “Mens et Manus” (“Mind and Hand”), dedicating itself to the pursuit of knowledge and its application to real-world problems. MIT has produced leading scholars in fields ranging from aeronautics to economics, invented entire academic disciplines, and transformed ideas into market-ready devices. This book examines a series of turning points, crucial decisions that helped define MIT. Many of these issues have relevance today: the moral implications of defense contracts, the optimal balance between government funding and private investment, and the right combination of basic science, engineering, and humanistic scholarship in the curriculum.

    Chapters describe the educational vison and fund-raising acumen of founder William Barton Rogers (MIT was among the earliest recipients of land grant funding); MIT's relationship with Harvard—its rival, doppelgänger, and, for a brief moment, degree-conferring partner; the battle between pure science and industrial sponsorship in the early twentieth century; MIT's rapid expansion during World War II because of defense work and military training courses; the conflict between Cold War gadgetry and the humanities; protests over defense contracts at the height of the Vietnam War; the uproar in the local community over the perceived riskiness of recombinant DNA research; and the measures taken to reverse years of institutionalized discrimination against women scientists.

    • Hardcover $25.95 £17.95
    • Paperback $21.95 £16.99