On a fine day in May 1958, at the Cuyahoga County Courthouse in Cleveland, Ohio, Melvin Kranzberg filed incorporation papers for a nonprofit organization “to promote the study of the development of technology and its relations to society in culture.” The co-signatories were John Hrones and Morrell Heald, colleagues of Kranzberg’s in the department of social sciences at the Case Institute of Technology.
A month later, in Berkeley, California, charter members of the new Society for the History of Technology convened a conference in conjunction with a meeting of the Humanistic-Social Division of the American Society for Engineering Education. Moderating the opening session, on 16 June, was Lynn White jr., then president of Mills College in nearby Oakland. One of the first two talks was presented by a rising scholar who had attended to local arrangements, Thomas S. Kuhn, assistant professor of the history of science at the University of California, whose topic was “Engineering Concepts in the Development of Thermodynamics.” The other was given by Robert P. Multhauf, head curator for the Department of Science and Technology at the Smithsonian Institution, who spoke on “The Role of the Technical Museum in Engineering Education.”
In December SHOT held its first annual meeting at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The next year the inaugural number of the new society’s journal, Technology and Culture, appeared, with articles by Peter Drucker, Cyril Stanley Smith, Carl Condit, Roger Burlingame, and Howard Mumford Jones, among others.
The Society for the History of Technology was chartered on the basis of a precept that later became one of Kranzberg’s Five Laws: “All history is relevant, but the history of technology is most relevant.” SHOT’s guiding principle was at the beginning, and remains, that technology could be properly understood only in terms of “its relations with society and culture . . . politics, economics, labor, business, the environment, public policy, science, and arts.”
SHOT will commemorate its golden anniversary over the course of two annual meetings, organized around the theme “Looking Back/Looking Beyond.” The first took place October 17–21, 2007, in Washington, D.C., the city in which SHOT held its first annual meeting and where it met several times subsequently—including its silver anniversary, in 1983. The second will convene in October 2008 in Lisbon, a location in keeping with SHOT’s international character.
|Fiftieth Anniversary Planning Committee|
Ruth Schwartz Cowan
Amy Sue Bix