STS.001 | Spring 2006 | Undergraduate
Technology in American History

Readings

Students are required to read the assigned materials in the following table before each class session. Most assigned readings are from the course textbooks:

Cowan, Ruth Schwarz. A Social History of American Technology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1997. ISBN: 9780195046052.

Smith, Merritt Roe, and Gregory Clancey, eds. Major Problems in the History of American Technology. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1998. ISBN: 9780669354720.

Students must also read a book selected from a list of acceptable titles, and write a review as described in the assignments section.

  • List of acceptable books for review (PDF)

For students who are not familiar with American history and need to familiarize themselves with the subject, a helpful introduction is: Maier, Pauline, et al. Inventing America: A History of the United States. 2nd ed. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 2005. ISBN: 9780393926750.

Films viewed in many class sessions are also listed in the table.

  • Tips on how to evaluate films, from the 1999 version of this course (PDF)
    (Note: film review essays are no longer assigned for the course.)

Lec # Topics READINGS FILM VIEWING
1 Introduction   A Man, A Plan, A Canal - Panama
2 What is Technology? Smith and Clancey. pp. xiii-xv (preface) and 2-15 (Marx, Winner, and MacKenzie essays.)

Cowan. pp. 1-4 and 201-18.

 
3 Technologies of Colonization and Conquest Cowan. pp. 5-27.

Smith and Clancey. pp. 26-60.

 
4 Crafts and Craftsmanship in Early America Cowan. pp. 28-65. The Gunsmith of Williamsburg. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. 59 min. 1969.
5 Paul Revere: Technologist?

Guest Speaker: Prof. Rob Martello (Olin College)

   
6 Politics and Early American Industrialization Smith and Clancey. pp. 103-42.

Cowan. pp. 67-91.

 
7 The Role of the State in Early American Industry    
8 Social and Political Implications of the New Technology Smith and Clancey. pp. 144-89.  
9 The Transportation and Communications Revolution

First Reading Quiz

Cowan. pp. 93-118.

Smith and Clancey. pp. 191-232.

 
10 Art and Industrialization Cowan. pp. 208-18.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “The Celestial Railroad.” (Download “The Celestial Railroad,” contained in a version of the text Mosses from an Old Manse and Other Stories, from Project Gutenberg.)

Notes on “The Celestial Railroad.” (PDF)

 
11 The Emerging Culture of Engineering in America Cowan. pp. 119-47.

Smith, Merritt Roe. “Becoming Engineers in Early Industrial America.” Working Paper 13, Program in Science, Technology and Society_,_ MIT, 1990.

The Iron Road. 59 min.
12 Technology in the Civil War Era Cowan. pp. 149-99.

Smith and Clancey. pp. 234-55.

 
13 Technology in the Civil War Era (cont.) Foley, Brendan. “Naval Roots of American Mechanical Engineering.” Draft of thesis/paper in production. Brooklyn Bridge. 58 min.
14 Human Machines? Frederick W. Taylor and the Rise of Scientific Management Smith and Clancey. pp. 267-311. Clockwork. Produced and directed by Eric Breitbart. 28 min. 1982.
15 Automobility and Mass Production Cowan. pp. 221-48.

Smith and Clancey. pp. 312-54.

 
16 Second Reading Quiz    
17 Mass Production   Chaplin, Charles. Modern Times. 1936.
18 Hobbyist Worlds and Technological Enthusiasm in Modern America

Guest Speaker: Kieran Downes (MIT)

Smith and Clancey. pp. 355-82 and 510-15.

Cowan. pp. 273-92.

 
19 Aeronautics and the Systems Approach

Guest Speaker: Dr. Deborah Douglas (MIT Museum)

Cowan. pp. 249-56.  
20 Technology and Art at the Apex of the Machine Age Cowan. pp. 213-18.  
21 World War II: A Technological Turning Point?

Guest Speaker: Dr. Brendan Foley (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute)

Cowan. pp. 256-70 and 310-18. Clip from Twelve O’Clock High. Scene 13 - Strategic Bombing Campaign aerial combat footage - approx. 10 min.
22 World War II: A Technological Turning Point? (cont.)   The Day After Trinity
23 A New World: Technology in Cold War America Smith and Clancey. pp. 427-69.

Cowan. pp. 292-99.

Noble, David F. “Social Choice in Machine Design.” In Case Studies on the Labor Process. Edited by A. Zimbalist. New York, NY: Monthly Review Press, 1981. ISBN: 9780853455196.

Automation. CBS documentary with Edward R. Murrow. c. 40 min. 1957.
24 Computers and Control: The Apollo Program

Guest Speaker: Sandy Brown (MIT)

Smith and Clancey. pp. 471-96 and 516-18.

Cowan. pp. 292-99.

 
25 Nature’s Revenge: Technology and the Environment Smith and Clancey. pp. 383-426. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Produced for PBS’s The American Experience, 1993.
26 The Brave New World of Biotechnology

Guest Speaker: Victor McElheny (MIT Knight Fellows Program)

Cowan. pp. 301-26.  
Course Info
As Taught In
Spring 2006