Download complete syllabus as .pdf

Fall 2003

Prof. D. deB. Beaver
Bronfman 117; ext. 2239
Office Hours: call or drop in

Today it's a truism that we live in an age of science and technology. How has that come to pass, and what has it meant for our lives? To answer those questions, this course reviews the social history of science and technology in the colonies and in the United States. It focusses on constructing an understanding of how American society has influenced and in turn been influenced by the development of science and technology. The majority of our time will be spent on technology, rather than science.


Classes meet Monday and Thursday afternoons, 1:10 - 2:15.
With a few exceptions, they consist of discussion of assigned readings. Class participation is essential for arriving at clarification and qualification of ideas in the texts and in the discussion.
For the few lengthy reading assignments use skimming skills; it is not necessary to know every detail.


Six times during the semester, students are to submit a short paper [2-3 pp], dealing with a topic in the reading, or one suggested by it. The purpose of these papers is to stimulate and focus discussion, and to practice writing. All 6 papers are to be written and handed in by Monday, November 25, the 23rd class session. There will be a midterm hour exam, a second hour exam after Thanksgiving, and a final short quiz.
Grades will be based on class participation [attendance, quality and frequency of interaction], papers, and exams, in proportions respectively of 30%, 30%, and 40%.


The following are the textbooks for the course: 

R. S. Cowan,  A Social History of American Technology

T.P. Hughes,  American Genesis: A History of the American Genius for Invention

C. Pursell,  The Machine in America: A Social History of Technology 

     In addition to the textbooks, there are a series of required and some recommended readings [articles, excerpts and chapters from books] available in a packet obtainable at cost, $10.00 (443 pp) from Ms. Kate Fletcher, Administrative Assistant, 189 Bronfman:

Smith/Clancey, "What is Technology?
Winner, "Brandy, Cigars, and Human Values"
R. S. Woodbury, "The Legend of Eli Whitney and Interchangeable Parts"
Cross and Szostak, "Iron, Steam, Rails"
Hindle and Lubar, "The John Bull and the Rise of American Railroading"
Cross and Szostak, "Machines on the Farm… 1800 - 1920"
B. Hindle and S. Lubar, "Farming and Raw Materials Processing: Causes
and Effects of Mechanization"
Cross and Szostak, "Americans confront a Mechanical World"
D.E. Nye, "The American Sublime"
J. Kasson, "The Emergence of Republican Technology" [Ch. 1 of Kasson]
J. Kasson, "Technology and Utopia" [Ch. 5 of Kasson]
G. Basalla, "Keaton and Chaplin: The Silent Film's Response to Technology"
D. A. Hounshell, "The Ethos of Mass Production & Its Critics"
L. Marx, "Alienation and Technology"
L. White, Jr., "Dynamo and Virgin Reconsidered"
Fallows, "The American Army and the M-16 Rifle"
Smith/Clancey, "Countdown to Cyberspace: 1974 - 1990.
Abbate,"Cold War and White Heat: the Origins and Meanings of Packet Switching"
Smith/Clancey, "The Pest War: The Shifting Use and Meaning of Insecticides,
1940 - 1990"
Marcus "Unanticipated Aftertaste: Cancer, The Role of Science, and the
Question of DES Beef…"
Marcus/Segal "Public and Private: Technology as a Social Question: The Later
1960s to the1990s"
Marcus/Segal "Private and Public: Technology and Individual Autonomy: The
Later 1960s to the 1990s"