Program in Science, Technology, and Society

2000–2001 was an up-and-down year for the Program in Science, Technology, and Society (STS). On the up-side, several STS faculty members received sizeable grants to support various program activities (including graduate students). The jointly-sponsored History and Social Study of Science and Technology Doctoral Program (HSSST) graduated four new Ph.D.s and had an 83 percent yield on graduate admissions (perhaps the highest at the Institute). Robert M. Metcalfe Professor of Writing Rosalind Williams and Assistant Professor of the History of Science David Kaiser joined the STS faculty and have made auspicious starts.

On the down-side, STS lost the services of Bern Dibner Professor Jed Buchwald and Leo Marx Career Development Assistant Professor of the History and Culture of Science and Technology Jessica Riskin to the California Institute of Technology and Stanford University, respectively. The search for the Bern Dibner Professor and Director of the Dibner Institute ended in stalemate, and the STS Program continues to run a deficit, owing primarily to insufficient four-year funding for entering graduate students. This year HSSST admitted five students, far too few given the number of faculty in STS, History, and Anthropology who want to offer graduate subjects. Numerous graduate seminars end up with only one, two, or three students, simply too small to achieve any sort of critical mass. This problem needs to be rectified by admitting more than the usual four or five students a year.

Doctoral Program

In its thirteenth year, the HSSST Doctoral Program (a collaborative venture of STS, the History Faculty, and the Anthropology Program) continued to develop in a satisfactory way. We are particularly pleased that four HSSST students completed their Ph.D.s. Dr. Eric Kupferberg will be at Harvard University as a Lecturer and Assistant Head Tutor in the Department of History of Science; he will also be a tutor in the Writing Practica at MIT. Dr. Rob Martello has been appointed assistant professor of history at the newly-established Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in Needham and continues to head the electronic version of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation-sponsored textbook in American history (see entry for Professor Smith). Dr. Benjamin Pinney has joined the Boston Consulting Group as a consultant. Dr. Eric Sievers is a lawyer with the Institute for Global Communications. HSSST doctoral students Mr. Wen Hua Kuo, Ms. Jessica Eden Miller, and Mr. Kaushik Sunder-Rajan passed their General Exams. Present and incoming students received a variety of grants and fellowships, including fellowships from the Dibner Institute, National Science Foundation (NSF), the Max Planck Institute, the Social Science Research Council, as well as Walter Rosenblith and MIT Presidential fellowships.

The HSSST Doctoral Program received 68 applications for the 2001–2002 academic year. In total, five students accepted, four of our top choices and one alternate. One applicant selected for admission declined our offer and chose Columbia University based solely on the financial package offered by Columbia.

Projects, Grants, and Initiatives

Professor Hammonds continues her work with the MIT Center for the Study of Diversity in Science, Technology, and Medicine in the United States with funds provided by the Ford Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation ($750,000).

Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Human Development Kenneth Keniston continued his research on cultural aspects of software localization with support from the NEC Corporation (via the Provost's MIT Research Support Committee), the Provost's HASS Fund, and the Mustard Seed Foundation. In addition, he received a grant of $50,000 from the Ford Foundation to organize a working group on "Equity, Diversity, and Information Technology."

Frances and David Dibner Associate Professor of the History of Engineering and Manufacturing David Mindell continues his research on technology, archaeology and the deep sea. In addition, Professor Mindell has received funds to continue his archeological research from a private donor. He is also negotiating with the Italian and Greek agencies to support continuing research in the Mediterranean/Aegean regions.

Leverett Howell and William King Cutten Professor of the History of Technology Merritt Roe Smith received an additional grant of $455,000 from the Sloan Foundation to support the preparation of an electronic edition of the American history textbook he is completing with William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of American History Pauline Maier (MIT), Professor Daniel J. Kevles (Yale University), and Professor of History Alex Keyssar (Duke University). Total support from the Sloan Foundation for this project now amounts to over $2.2 million.

Abby Rockefeller Mauze Professor of the Sociology of Science Sherry Turkle recently received a grant from the Kapor Foundation ($302,425) to continue the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self.

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Educational Activities

The STS Program offered 21 undergraduate subjects and 16 graduate subjects. Undergraduate enrollment totaled 384 (fall: 138; spring 246). Graduate enrollment totaled 185 (fall 123; spring 62). Freshman Advisor Seminars were offered by Professors Louis Bucciarelli ("Photovolt. Solar Energy"), Keniston ("Engineers/Careers"), and Fitzgerald ("Viewing the Industrial Revolution in Boston").

There was one undergraduate major, one minor, and 26 concentrators.

New undergraduate classes for 2000-2001 included: STS.063 Children and E-Culture and STS.064 Technology and Identity: Objects, Development, the Life Cycle, both taught by Professor Turkle; STS.042 Einstein, Oppenheimer, Feynman: Physics in the 20th Century, taught by Professor Kaiser and joint with the Physics Department; STS.S26 Factories and Laboratories, taught by Professors Fitzgerald and Hammonds. This freshman subject, containing lectures in addition to numerous field trips, was one of three out of some 40 entries selected to be a pilot class as part of a competition sponsored by the d'Arbeloff Teaching Initiative. (The original proposal was submitted by Professors Fitzgerald, Hammonds, and Mindell.) Professor Keniston's STS.096 Introduction to India prepared ten undergraduates for summer industry and teaching internships in India as part of the MIT India Program which he founded. Professor Hammonds' course STS.047 Medicine, Healthcare, and Society in the US, was officially designated a "communications-intensive" (CI-H) subject in the humanities.

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Special Events

This year's Siegel Prize for the best work by an MIT student in Science, Technology, and Society was awarded to HSSST graduate student Aslihan Sanal. The title of Ms. Sanal's paper is "The Business of Life: Kidneys, Media, Politics and the Privatization of Biomedicine in Turkey and in the Middle East."

In early April the Program celebrated 20 years of service to MIT by Ms. Phyllis Klein, our undergraduate academic officer, by hosting a dinner in her honor. Her position is now ably filled by Ms. Judith Spitzer.

Dr. John Staudenmaier, S.J., was this year's speaker at the Annual Arthur Miller Lecture on Science and Ethics held May 7, 2001. Dr. Staudenmaier is professor of history at the University of Detroit Mercy and Editor of Technology and Culture (since 1995). His talk was entitled, "When I say, 'We,' Who is Talking? Ethical Dimensions of Pronoun Usage in Science and Technology Discourse."

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Colloquia Series and Special Lectures

The STS Colloquia series, headed this year by Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Science and Technology Studies Joseph Dumit and Professor Hammonds, continued to be a core activity of the HSSST doctoral program. This year's series consisted of 15 speakers from such institutions as Columbia, Cornell, Howard, MIT, New York University, and Odense University (Denmark), and covered a wide range of topics including "Sexual Technologies: The Good, the Bad, and the Hard to Believe," "'Building the Fence': On Medical Segregation and Racial Segregation," "A Historian of Technology Confronts the Information Age at MIT," "Syphilis and Segregation: Medical Racism and the Rise of Jim Crow," and "Mapping Disease: The West Nile Virus and Cholera." Professor Smith also organized, with Professor Daniel Hastings, head of MIT's Technology and Policy Program, a lunchtime seminar series for students and faculty in both groups. Speakers in this series included, among others, Professor Alfred Chandler, Harvard University School of Business, Professor Sheila Jasanoff of John F. Kennedy School of Government, and Professor David Hart of the John F. Kennedy School of Government. Professor Smith arranged for informal lunch discussions for HSSST graduate students and faculty by having Dr. Mats Fridlund, Visiting Scholar in STS from the Institute for Future Studies in Stockholm, Sweden, and Professor Arne Kaijser, Dibner Fellow from Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden.

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Knight Science Journalism Fellowship Program

Now entering their nineteenth year, the Knight Fellowships continue to attract science journalists from around the world to learn more about the science and technology they cover. During his third year as Director of the Program, Boyce Rensberger organized a week-long intensive fellowship on molecular biology for science journalists, as well as a four-day intensive fellowship on global climate change.

The nineteenth class of Fellows includes Agnieszka Biskup, managing editor, Muse magazine; David Chanatry, producer, NBC Weekend Nightly News; Ibiba Don Pedro, environment reporter, The Guardian, Nigeria; Carey Goldberg, Boston bureau chief, The New York Times; Carol Hills, senior producer, The World, BBC and Public Radio International; SeHee Hwang, medical writer, JoongAng Ilbo, South Korea; Barbara Moran, freelance magazine writer and television producer; Sean McNaughton, information graphic artist, The Boston Globe; Diran Onifade, reporter, Nigerian Television Authority; Rebecca Perry, editorial artist; The Los Angeles Times

Fellows attend over 60 seminars with faculty, which are specially organized for them, as well as other seminars and workshops devoted to science and technology and their wider impacts. The Fellowships are supported by an endowment contributed by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation of Miami and by alumni and foundation gifts. More information about the Knight Science Journalism Fellowships can be found at

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Professional Activities

Professor Dumit was a Visiting Professor in the Department of the History of Science, Harvard University, in the spring. He is revising his book manuscript, "Mindful Images: Brain Scans and Personhood in Biomedical America," and co-chaired the STS colloquia series in the fall.

Professor Michael Fischer taught two STS subjects in the fall, as well as tutorials in Anthropology and a class in Comparative Media Studies, served on the STS steering committee and admissions committee, and was on leave in the spring. He participated in three national and two international conferences, was the keynote speaker at one international and one national conference, published two papers, and has two papers in press.

Professor Fitzgerald, Director of Graduate Studies for the HSSST doctoral program, received the Perkins Award for Excellence in Graduate Advising at the Institute Awards Convocation on May 14, 2001. The Frank E. Perkins Award is presented to a faculty member, who as a graduate student advisor, demonstrates unbounded compassion and dedication towards students. With funding from the Provost's Fund, she ran a monthly seminar for Boston area scholars called "Science, Technology, and Agrarian Change." She won, with her colleague Arthur J. Conner Professor of History Harriet N. Ritvo, a grant for $107,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a Sawyer Seminar entitled "Modern Times, Rural Places" for the next academic year.

Associate Professor of Anthropology and Science Studies Hugh Gusterson published the articles "How not to Construct a Radioactive Waste Incinerator" in Science, Technology and Human Values and "The Virtual Nuclear Weapons Laboratory in the New World Order" in American Ethnologist. He also published op-eds in the Boston Globe and the San Francisco Chronicle. Professor Gusterson served on selection committees for the MacArthur Foundation and MIT's Knight Science Journalism Fellowship program.

Professor Hammonds was re-elected Secretary of the MIT faculty for a two year term; served on the Council on Faculty Diversity and the Task Force on Minority Student Achievement; served on the search committee for the Dibner chair; served on two promotion and tenure committees; taught four courses; organized departmental colloquia series; organized for the fifth year the Joint MIT/Harvard Workshop on "Race" in the Histories of Science, Medicine and Technology; published one article; worked on two book projects; gave nine invited lectures including three named lectures (Harvard, Radcliffe, and Wellesley); was a Visiting Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin; served on two NSF review panels in the Social and Behavioral Sciences; served as consultant to Association of American Colleges and Universities and Spelman College; served as consultant on three film projects (two on race and science); served on the History of Science Society Council; served on the Program Committee of the Berkshire Conference of Women's Historians; was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, Spelman College Chapter. Professor Hammonds received a three-year grant from the Mellon Foundation for $750K in July, 2000 to start the MIT Center for the Study of Diversity in Science, Technology, and Medicine. She also received a grant of $190K from the Ford Foundation to organize a National Initiative on Minority Women Scientists and Engineers.

Professor Kaiser published a journal article, two encyclopedia entries, co-edited a four-volume anthology on the history of modern physics (Routledge, in press), presented a paper at a national conference, and delivered four invited lectures throughout the US and Europe. He has also organized and secured funding for a two-part international conference on the history of physical sciences, with 20 participants, to take place at MIT during 2002. A recent article of his was named one of the best articles from 1997-1999 in the history of science by the British Society for the History of Science. He was also awarded the Levitan Prize in the Humanities at MIT, and appointed the Leo Marx Career Development Assistant Professor in the History and Culture of Science and Technology at MIT, for the term 2001-03.

Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science Evelyn Fox Keller completed a book manuscript Making Sense of Life: Explaining Biological Development with Models, Metaphors, and Machines, to be published by Harvard University Press next winter, and The Century of the Gene (Harvard University Press) was published in October. She was Visiting Professor, Ecole Normale, Fall 2000, Scientist in Residence at the Exploratorium (February), Visiting Scholar at Bellagio (March 16-April 14), and will be Visiting Scholar at Clare Hall at Cambridge University from June through August. In April, Professor Keller delivered a series of lectures as Hannah Lecturer at Hamlin University. She will receive an Honorary Degree from Wesleyan University in May, and was a finalist for the Pen New England Award for The Century of the Gene. Two new articles have appeared in edited volumes.

Professor Keniston directed the MIT-India Program, which sent this year 15 students as interns to work sites in India. He traveled and lectured extensively in India, Nepal, and Spain on "Grassroots Information Technology and Development". He has joined the board of the BBVA Foundation in Spain. With an Indian colleague, he is co-authoring a book on "Bridging the Digital Divide, Lessons from India."

Professor Mindell received the MacVicar Faculty Fellowship for undergraduate teaching at MIT. While on leave in the spring term, he completed his book "Between Human and Machine: Feedback, Control, and Computing before Cybernetics" which is in production and will be published by Johns Hopkins next year. He has lectured on this topic at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Southampton, and the Explorers Club (Boston). He has spoken on deep sea archaeology at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, the University of Southampton Oceanographic Center, MIT On The Road (Paris), the University of Trapani (Sicily), and the MIT Club of Delaware. Professor Mindell arranged a post-doctoral research fellowship for an archaeologist to teach archaeology and study deep ocean technology at MIT, funded by Dr. Anna McCann and the Taggart Foundation. He participated in the Cambridge-MIT workshop on "Cultures of Innovation."

Professor Smith serves as Director of the STS Program and, during the past year, taught two graduate subjects and one undergraduate subject. He continues to head the Sloan American history textbook project, Inventing America: A Narrative History of the United States, now in press at W. W. Norton, New York. After 16 years of service, Professor Smith stepped down from the Board of Trustees of the Hagley Foundation. He continues to serve on the boards of the American Museum of Textile History, the MIT Museum, The Thomas A. Edison Papers Project, and the public television series, The American Experience. He also continues as Editor of the Johns Hopkins University Press on the History of Technology and presented a paper on "Two Cultures of Innovation in Nineteenth Century America" at a Cambridge-MIT Institute (CMI) workshop in the History of Science and Technology at the University of Cambridge in May.

Professor Turkle received $302,425, renewable for a second and third year, from the Kapor Foundation, to launch an MIT Initiative on Technology and Self dedicated to looking at the social and psychological dimensions of our increasingly intimate relationship with technology. While directing this Initiative she has chaired a conference on adolescence, technology, and identity funded by the Spencer Foundation and continuing activities in this domain of work will be a centerpiece of the activities of the Initiative. Professor Turkle's current research is about the psychological impact of computational objects as they become increasingly "relational" artifacts. She is studying a range of objects, from "affective computers" to robotic dolls and pets.

Professor Williams used her sabbatical leave to complete a book manuscript (tentative title: "Retooling: A Humanist Ponders Changing Technology at MIT") under contract to The MIT Press. She has also given lectures at the Hagley Museum and Cambridge University; worked on shorter publications; and begun to get involved with Program activities in preparation for becoming Director of Graduate Studies on July 1, 2001.

Future Plans

STS will observe its 25th anniversary in 2001-2002 and is planning two events-one in the fall, one in the spring-to celebrate the occasion. With the departure of Professor Riskin, STS hopes to appoint a new assistant professor of the history of science during the coming year. The Program will also seek to fill the Bern Dibner Professorship of the History of Science. The task of reviewing the graduate program basic courses will continue during 2001-2002. We also have begun a serious review of the undergraduate offerings, and will continue to put into place a more coherent set and diverse range of subjects. We will also continue our efforts to teach and interact with units across the Institute.

Merritt Roe Smith

More information about the STS Program can be found online at

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