Carroll Pursell

Position: Adjunct Professor
School and/or Centres: School of History


Phone: (02) 612 58360

Location: Level 6, RSSS Building, 146 Ellery Crescent


B.A. (University of California, Berkeley) M.A. (University of Delaware) PhD. (University of California, Berkeley)

Researcher profile:

Carroll Pursell is Adjunct Professor of History in the School of History.  He held a similar position at Macquarie University, and is also Professor of History (emeritus), University of California (Santa Barbara) and Adeline Barry Davee Distinguished Professor (emeritus) at Case Western Reserve University.  He also served as the Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Lehigh University.

Dr. Pursell is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and former president of both the International Committee for the History of Technology (ICHOTEC) and the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT), which also awarded him its Leonardo da Vince Medal for outstanding contributions to the history of technology.

The history of the United States; the social and cultural history of American technology; technology and the environment; and technology and gender.


Technology in Postwar America: A History. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.

The Machine in America: A Social History of Technology. Revised Edition, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University press, 2007.

White Heat: People and Technology (companion volume to a

BBC television series). London: BBC Books, 1994.  [American edition by University of California Press, 1994].

Early Stationary Steam Engines in America: A Study in the Migration of a Technology.  Washington, D.C., 1969.

Edited Books:

Ed., A Hammer in Their Hands: A Documentary History of Technology and the African-American Experience.  Cambridge: M.I.T. Press, 2005.Ed., Companion to American Technology. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2005. (Paperback edition, 2008).

Ed., American Technology.  Blackwell Readers in American Social and Cultural History.  Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2001.

Ed., Technology in America: A History of Individuals and Ideas. 2d ed., Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990.  [Also published by United States Information Agency for distribution abroad.]

Ed., From Conservation to Ecology: The Development of Environmental Concern.  New York, 1973.

Ed., The Military Industrial Complex.  New York, 1972.

Ed., The Politics of American Science: 1939 to the Present, ed. with James L. Penick, Donald C. Swain, Morgan B. Sherwood.  2d ed., Cambridge, 1972.

Ed., Readings in Technology and American Life.  New York, 1969.

Ed., Technology in Western Civilization, ed. with Melvin Kranzberg. 2 vols., New York, 1967-68.

Selected Book Chapters:

“Herbert Hoover and the Transnational Lives of Engineers,” Transnational Lives: Biographies of Global Modernity,” ed. Desley Deacon, Penny Russell and Angela Woollacott (Houndsmiths: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), pp. 109-120.

“Technology in the 21st Century,” American Thought and Culture in the 21st Century, ed. Martin Halliwell and Catherine Morley (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008), pp.179-193.

“The Art and Commerce of Video Games,” Technology between artes and arts: Festchrift fur Hans-Joachim Braun, ed. Reinhold Bauer, James Williams, and Wolfhard Weber (Munster: Waxmann , 2008), pp. 149-157.

“Science and Technology,” A Companion to 20th-Century America, ed. Stephen J. Whitfield (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2004), pp. 449-461.

“Feminism and the Rethinking of the History of Technology,” Feminism in Twentieth-Century Science, Technology, and Medicine, ed. Angela N.H. Creager, Elizabeth Lunbeck and Londa Schiebinger (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), pp. 113-127.                          

“’Am I a Lady or an Engineer?’  The Origins of the Women’s Engineering Society in Britain, 1918-1940,” Crossing Boundries, Building Bridges: Comparing the History of Women Engineers 1870s-1990s, ed. Annie Canel, Ruth Oldenziel, and Karin Zachmann (Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers, 2000), pp. 51-73.

"The Long Summer of Boy Engineering," Possible Dreams: Enthusiasm for Technology in America, ed. John L. Wright (Dearborn: Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village, 1992), pp. 34-43.

"Variations on Mass Production: The Case of Furniture Manufacture in the United States to 1940," U.S.-Japan Comparison in National Formation and Transformation of Technology: Centering Around Mass Production Systems, 1900-1990  (Tokyo: Japan Science Foundation, 1992), pp. 71-96.

"Telling a Story: 'The Automobile in American Life'," Ideas and Images: Developing Interpretive History Exhibits, ed. Kenneth L. Ames, Barbara Franco, and L. Thomas Frye (Nashville: American Association for State and Local History, 1992), pp. 233-252.

"'What the Senate Is to the American Commonwealth': A National Academy of Engineers," New Perspectives on Technology and American Culture, ed. Bruce Sinclair (Philadelphia, 1986), pp. 19-29.

"Conservation, Environmentalism, and the Engineers: The Progressive Era and the Recent Past," Environmental History: Critical Issues in Comparative Perspective, ed. Kendall E. Bailes (Lanham, 1985), pp. 176-192.                          

"The Problematic Nature of Late American Technology," The History of American Technology: Exhileration or Discontent? ed. David A. Hounshell (Greenville, 1984), pp. 18-27.

"The American Ideal of a Democratic Technology," The Technological Imagination: Theories and Fictions, ed. Theresa de Lauretis et al., (Madison, 1980), pp. 11-25.

"Toys, Technology and Sex Roles in America, 1920-1940," Dynamos and Virgins Revisited: Women and Technological Change in History. An Anthology, ed. Martha Moore Trescott (Metuchen, 1979), pp. 252-267.

"Science Agencies in World War II: The OSRD and Its Challengers," The Sciences in the American Context: New Perspectives, ed. Nathan Reingold (Washington, D.C., 1979), pp. 359-378.

Selected Articles:

“The America Patent Agency: The Embedded ‘Lone Inventor’ in American History,” Icon, 17 (2011), 31-39.

“The safe and rational children’s playground: Strategies and technologies since the nineteenth century,” History Australia, 8 (December, 2011), 41-68.

“Technologies as Cultural Practice and Production,” Technology and Culture, 51 (July, 2010), 715-722.

“Sim Van der Ryn and the Architecture of the Appropriate Technology Movement,” Australasian Journal of American Studies, 28 (December, 2009), 17-30.

“Engineering Organization and the Scientist in World War I: The Search for National Service and Recognition,” Prometheus, 24 (Sept., 2006), 257-268.

“Appropriate Technology, Modernity and U.S. Foreign Aid,” Science and Cultural Diversity: Proceedings of the XXIst International Congress of History of Science, I, Plenary Lectures (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, 2003), 175-187.

“The Hoe or the Tractor?  Appropriate Technology and American Technical Aid After World War II,” Icon, 5 (1999), 90-99.

“Domesticating modernity: the Electrical Association for Women, 1924-86,” British Journal for the History of Science, 32 (March, 1999), 47-67.

"Variations on Mass Production: The Case of Furniture Manufacture in the United States to 1940," History of Technology, 17 (1995), 127-141.

"Seeing the Invisible: New Perceptions in the History of Technology," ICON, 1 (1995), 9-15.

"'Am I a Lady or an Engineer?': The Origins of the Women's Engineering Society in Britain, 1918-1940," Technology and Culture, 34 (Jan., 1993), 78-97.

"The Rise and Fall of the Appropriate Technology Movement in the United States, 1965-1985" (SHOT Presidential Address), Technology and Culture, 34 (July 1993), 629-637.

"The Construction of Masculinity and Technology," Polhem, 11 (1993), 206-219.

"According to A Fixed Law and Not Arbitrary: The Home Efficiency Movement in America, 1900-1930," Polhem, 3 (1985), 1-16.

"The History of Technology and the Study of Material Culture," American Quarterly, 35 (1983), 305-315.

"Government and Technology in the Great Depression," Technology and Culture, 20 (Jan., 1979), 162-174.

"The Technical Society of the Pacific Coast, 1884-1914," Technology and Culture, 17 (Oct., 1976), 702-716.

"Belling the Cat: A Critique of Technology Assessment," Lex et Scientia, 10 (Oct.-Dec., 1974), 130-142.

"'A Savage Struck by Lightning': The Idea of a Research Moratorium," Lex et Scientia, 10 (Oct.-Dec., 1974), 146-158.

"'Who to Ask Besides the Barber'--Suggestions for Alternative Assessments," Lex et Scientia, 10 (Oct.-Dec., 1974), 162-172.

"The Farm Chemurgic Council and the United States Department of Agriculture, 1935-1939," Isis, (Fall, 1969), 307-317.

"The Administration of Science in the Department of Agriculture, 1933-1940," Agricultural History, 42 (July, 1968), 231-240.

"A Preface to Government Support of Research and Development: Research Legislation and the National Bureau of Standards, 1935-1941," Technology and Culture, 9 (April, 1968), 145-164.

"The Anatomy of a Failure: The Science Advisory Board, 1933-1935," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 109 (Dec. 10, 1965), 342-351.

"Thomas Digges and William Pearce: An Example of the Transit of Technology," William and Mary Quarterly, 21 (Oct., 1964), 551-560.

"E.I. DuPont and the Merino Mania in Delaware, 1805-1815," Agricultural History, 36 (April, 1962), 91-100.  Reprinted in the National Wool Grower, 62 (July, 1963).

"Tariff and Technology: The Foundation and Development of the American Tin-Plate Industry, 1872-1900," Technology and Culture, 3 (Summer, 1962), 267-284.

Current Research Projects:

  • The Rise and Fall of the Appropriate Technology Movement in America

This is a history of the attempt in the United States, during the 1970s, to move the country from dependence on evermore destructive industrial and energy regimes to one based on sustainable technologies (for example solar and wind power) which promote environmental healing and social justice.

  • Technology and Play

This study investigates the ways in which technology and play have shaped each other in America over the past century.  Topics include toys, organized sports, extreme sports, hobbies and DIY, playgrounds, amusement parks and electronic games.

Updated:  21 August 2023/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications