Matthew Wisnioski: Engineers for Change: Competing Visions of Technology in 1960s America (2012)

24 June 2014, dusan

“In the late 1960s an eclectic group of engineers joined the antiwar and civil rights activists of the time in agitating for change. The engineers were fighting to remake their profession, challenging their fellow engineers to embrace a more humane vision of technology. In Engineers for Change, Matthew Wisnioski offers an account of this conflict within engineering, linking it to deep-seated assumptions about technology and American life.

The postwar period in America saw a near-utopian belief in technology’s beneficence. Beginning in the mid-1960s, however, society—influenced by the antitechnology writings of such thinkers as Jacques Ellul and Lewis Mumford—began to view technology in a more negative light. Engineers themselves were seen as conformist organization men propping up the military-industrial complex. A dissident minority of engineers offered critiques of their profession that appropriated concepts from technology’s critics. These dissidents were criticized in turn by conservatives who regarded them as countercultural Luddites. And yet, as Wisnioski shows, the radical minority spurred the professional elite to promote a new understanding of technology as a rapidly accelerating force that our institutions are ill-equipped to handle. The negative consequences of technology spring from its very nature—and not from engineering’s failures. “Sociotechnologists” were recruited to help society adjust to its technology. Wisnioski argues that in responding to the challenges posed by critics within their profession, engineers in the 1960s helped shape our dominant contemporary understanding of technological change as the driver of history.”

Publisher MIT Press, 2012
ISBN 0262018268, 9780262018265
296 pages
via a2

Interview with the author (Carla Nappi, New Books in Science, Technology, and Society, audio, 1h)
Review (Caroll Pursell, The American Historical Review, 2014)
Review (Kevin T. Baker, The Sixties, 2013)
Review (Stephen H. Unger, 2013)



Joseph Needham, et al.: Science and Civilisation in China, 7 vols. (1954–2008)

15 August 2013, dusan

Science and Civilisation in China is recognised as one of the most remarkable works of scholarship in the twentieth century. Originally proposed as a single volume of 600 to 800 pages, the project now encompasses seventeen books published under the direct supervision of Joseph Needham, from the first volume which appeared in 1954, through to volume 6.3 which was in press at the time of his death in 1995. The preparation and publishing of further volumes is ongoing. Responsibility for the commissioning and approval of work for publication in the series is now taken by the Publications Board of the Needham Research Institute, under the chairmanship of Dr C. Cullen, who acts as general editor of the series.”

The published volumes reflect Needham’s vision of the field of the history of science and its social background in China, and his aim to make Chinese achievements in science and technology better understood. The series was on the Modern Library Board’s 100 Best Nonfiction books of the 20th century.

Publisher Cambridge University Press

Review (Robert Finlay, Journal of World History, 2000)
Review (Marta E. Hanson, Early Science and Medicine, 2007)
Simon Winchester on Joseph Needham, video, 57 min (via अवनिचर अवनिचर)

Needham Research Institute

Vol. 1: Introductory Orientations, With the Research Assistance of Wang Ling, 1954
Vol. 2: History of Scientific Thought, With the Research Assistance of Wang Ling, 1956
Vol. 3: Mathematics and the Sciences of the Heavens and Earth, With the Collaboration of Wang Ling, 1959

Physics and Physical Technology
Vol. 4-1: Physics, With the Collaboration of Wang Ling; and the Special Co-operation of Kenneth Robinson, 1962
Vol. 4-2: Mechanical Engineering, With the Collaboration of Wang Ling, 1965
Vol. 4-3: Civil Engineering and Nautics, With the Collaboration of Wang Ling and Lu Gwei-Djen, 1971

Chemistry and Chemical Technology
Vol. 5-1: Paper and Printing, By Tsien Tsuen-Hsuin, 1985
Vol. 5-2: Spagyrical Discovery and Invention: Magisteries of Gold and Immortality, With the Collaboration of Lu Gwei-Djen, 1974
Vol. 5-3: Spagyrical Discovery and Invention: Historical Survey, from Cinnabar Elixirs to Synthetic Insulin, With the Collaboration of Ho Ping-Yü and Lu Gwei-Djen, 1976
Vol. 5-4: Spagyrical Discovery and Invention: Apparatus, Theories and Gifts, With the Collaboration of Ho Ping-Yü and Lu Gwei-Djen; and a Contribution by Nathan Sivin, 1980
Vol. 5-5: Spagyrical Discovery and Invention: Physiological Alchemy, With the Collaboration of Lu Gwei-Djen, 1983
Vol. 5-6: Military Technology: Missiles and Sieges, With Robin D.S. Yates, Krzysztof Gawlikowski, Edward McEwen, Wang Ling, 1994
Vol. 5-7: Military Technology: The Gunpowder Epic, With the Collaboration of Ho Ping-Yü (Ho Peng Yoke), Lu Gwei-Djen, and Wang Ling, 1987
Vol. 5-8: Not yet published
Vol. 5-9: Textile Technology: Spinning and Reeling, By Dieter Kuhn, 1988
Vol. 5-10: Not yet published
Vol. 5-11: Ferrous Metallurgy, By Donald B. Wagner, 2008
Vol. 5-12: Ceramic Technology, By Rose Kerr and Nigel Wood; With Contributions by Ts’ai Mei-fen and Zhang Fukang; Edited by Rose Kerr, 2004
Vol. 5-13: Mining, By Peter J. Golas, 1999

Biology and Biological Technology
Vol. 6-1: Botany, With the Collaboration of Lu Gwei-Djen, and a Special Contribution by Huang Hsing-Tsung, 1986
Vol. 6-2: Agriculture, By Francesca Bray, 1984
Vol. 6-3: Agro-Industries and Forestry, By Christian A. Daniels and Nicholas K. Menzies, 1996
Vol. 6-4: Not yet published
Vol. 6-5: Fermentations and Food Science, By Huang Hsing-Tsung, 2000
Vol. 6-6: Medicine, With the Collaboration of Lu Gwei-Djen; Edited and With an Introduction by Nathan Sivin, 2000

Vol. 7-1: Language and Logic, By Christoph Harbsmeier; Edited by Kenneth Robinson, 1998
Vol. 7-2: General Conclusions and Reflections, With the Collaboration of Kenneth Robinson and Ray Huang (Huang Jen-Yu); With an Introduction by Mark Elvin; Edited by Kenneth Robinson, 2004

(PDFs removed on 2019-5-15 and 2019-6-21 upon request from publisher)

Paul E. Ceruzzi: Internet Alley. High Technology in Tysons Corner, 1945-2005 (2008)

17 February 2010, dusan

Much of the world’s Internet management and governance takes place in a corridor extending west from Washington, DC, through northern Virginia toward Washington Dulles International Airport. Much of the United States’ military planning and analysis takes place here as well. At the center of that corridor is Tysons Corner—an unincorporated suburban crossroads once dominated by dairy farms and gravel pits. Today, the government contractors and high- tech firms—companies like DynCorp, CACI, Verisign, and SAIC—that now populate this corridor have created an “Internet Alley” off the Washington Beltway. In Internet Alley, Paul Ceruzzi examines this compact area of intense commercial development and describes its transformation into one of the most dynamic and prosperous regions in the country.

Ceruzzi explains how a concentration of military contractors carrying out weapons analysis, systems engineering, operations research, and telecommunications combined with suburban growth patterns to drive the region’s development. The dot-com bubble’s burst was offset here, he points out, by the government’s growing national security-related need for information technology. Ceruzzi looks in detail at the nature of the work carried out by these government contractors and how it can be considered truly innovative in terms of both technology and management.

Today in Tysons Corner, clusters of sleek new office buildings housing high-technology companies stand out against the suburban landscape, and the upscale Tysons Galleria Mall is neighbor to a government-owned radio tower marked by a sign warning visitors not to photograph or sketch it. Ceruzzi finds that a variety of perennially relevant issues intersect here, making it both a literal and figurative crossroads: federal support of scientific research, the shift of government activities to private contractors, local politics of land use, and the postwar movement from central cities to suburbs.

Publisher MIT Press, 2008
ISBN 0262033747, 9780262033749
Length 242 pages

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