Dear Colleagues and Friends,
It is a pleasure to publish the 50th ICOHTEC Newsletter today. Due to the combination of Newsletters and Newsletter updates the history of this small journal is dating back to the 1980s or even longer. Angus Buchanan and Hans-Joachim Braun have been the last editors.
Thanks to Yoel Bergmann the Newsletter publishes a report on the development of the history of technology in Israel. This very interesting report might encourage you to write reports on the development of the history of technology in your own country.
Concerning our Budapest meeting 28 July - 2 August 2009 the organisers of the ICHST Congress had to change the venue of the congress; it will take place at Budapest University of Technology and Economics. This university is near to the Corvenius University, but located at the other bank of the river Danube. Please visit the ICHST homepage http://www.conferences.hu/ichs09/ and find the third circular as well. It informs about the preliminary program of the conference.
ICOHTEC’s Program Committee prepared the call for papers of our next-but-one meeting 10 - 15 August 2010 in Tampere. The conference will take place together with The International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage (TICCIH); the deadline for submission of proposals is 16 November 2009. A special homepage of this conference can be found on: http://www.tampere.fi/industrialpast2010/.
Thank you for your comments on the survey “Playing with Technology” and best wishes
Yoel Bergman, graduate and associate fellow, Cohen Institute for History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, Tel-Aviv University
One prevailing view is that academia has not yet formulated a systematic program for teaching and researching the history of Israeli and general technology. Selected topics are taught or researched on an occasional basis. This embryonic scenario may be reminiscent of the pre-2000 situation in Finland described by Timo Myllyntaus and others.
One of the participants is persistent over the years with the critique that, although Israeli society is very much dominated by technology and technological culture, the amount of research into the history and the influence of technology on public life is minute. Much effort and expertise in academia have been allotted to the history of science but the history of technology, which is becoming more and more influential, has not been cultivated enough.
In the last few years, the number of STS study programs has increased, contributing in an indirect manner perhaps to the history of technology and to the discourse about technology's role in society. Relevant issues are examined in bi-annual workshops, STS activism is encouraged at least on the research level, and case studies on ecological abuses over the years are examined.
Important modernization took place in agriculture and food production: Machines were imported to improve local processes, such as the traditional oil-making based on mechanical pressing. Entire processes were also brought in such as a new chemical process for olive oil production. In special cases, imported technology was very much improved or adopted to local conditions through local systematic studies. Shaul Katz has studied three typical cases during the Ottoman rule , examining the technical aspects of improvements in terms of their efficiency and adaptability to Palestine. His work, written in the 1970's, was a novel move at the time, since traditional interest was focused more on the role of new technology in national revival.
During the British Mandate (1917-1948), the industry expanded quickly when waves of Jewish refugees from Europe arrived. One large scale-up took place during WW II to supply British forces in the Middle East. The design and production of local arms also grew in that period (a clandestine Jewish operation during the Mandate which became overt and official since 1948). Of special interest are the initial military knowledge transfers during the 1930's and the importance of local improvements . Histories of past and recent military projects are sometimes examined in the media. Their importance is underlined and questions are often asked about who really deserves the credit (is it that reclusive engineer or the articulate project manager?).
Since independence in 1948, the growth of the national economy was stepped up to provide an acceptable standard of living to the rapidly expanding population and to meet the ever present and large scale defense needs. Industry had to adapt to the almost total lack of raw materials such as oil, coal and metal ores. This prompted the development of knowledge intensive industries such as pharmaceuticals and electronics, often based on local research. The worldwide rise of information, medical and bio-technologies has encouraged the large growth in local hi-tech. Such evolvements provide ample research topics for future research in the history of technology.
Historical topics in other geographies: The subjects vary with the students and their supervisors. Examples include the development of industries in Europe and America , , and scientific-technical developments.
The amount of research into the history of technology may sometimes be linked to the percentage of people who received a technically-oriented high school education. Technical topics in general have lost ground over the last few years as more and more high school students became convinced that the easy ladder for success runs through economics and management and not through science and technology. Recently, the industry has begun to press for expansion in technological education. Supporters point to the personal biographies of leaders in finance and industry, showing that many came from a technological background. The importance of technology in meeting global and local needs is also stressed. This year's National Conference on Education is to be devoted to technological education.
Research Institutions and Programs
Research institutions active over the years and graduate programs are listed below:
The Sidney M. Edelstein Center for the History and Philosophy of Science, Technology, and Medicine at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem: The Center serves to enhance advanced research in the history and philosophy of science, technology, and medicine. In particular, the Center fosters research based on the resources of the Einstein Archives, the Yehuda Theological Collection of Isaac Newton, the Edelstein Library that includes many rare books on the history of science, technology and medicine, including the Edelstein Collections on the history of dyeing and chemical technology. The Center offers post-doctoral fellowships, and short-term graduate support and engages in an active program of seminars and workshops. The Center constitutes a nexus between the faculties of Humanities, Social Sciences, Science, and Medicine. Particularly strong is the interaction of faculty and students with the History, Philosophy, and Sociology of Science programs, and the Departments of Philosophy and History, as well as of Physics, at The Hebrew University. Each year the Edelstein Center organizes an annual international workshop (in collaboration with Tel Aviv University and the Jerusalem Van Leer Institute), each one with a different theme.
The Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas in Tel Aviv University: A research and graduate teaching institute within the framework of the School of History of Tel Aviv University. The Institute's curriculum reflects the Institute's intellectual credo as well as the staff's research interests. These include: History of Science and the Intellectual History of the Western World; Philosophy of Science with emphasis on the periods following the Scientific Revolution; The Anthropology of Knowledge; History and Philosophy of Biology; History of Technology; History and Philosophy of Ancient and Modern Mathematics; Cultural Studies with emphasis on critical aspects of modern western culture and, in the Israeli context, a critical study of science and Judaism.
The Graduate Program in Science, Technology and Society at Bar Ilan University:
Recently, STS/history programs have been recently inaugurated in Haifa University and the Ben Gurion University in the Negev.
Some of the better known museums were created by those whose biography was very much related to technological improvements, as army veterans and industrialists. One typical example is the air force museum in the Negev created by veterans who set themselves to collect old aircrafts and renew them in the new museum location. Mr. Stef Wertheimer, a known industrialist, was active in the foundation of a museum located in Tefen Industrial Park at the Western Galilee. It is set amongst industrial plants displaying – among other things – the development of industry from the Stone Age until today.
Museums aimed at promoting understanding in technology are found in the major cities as the National Museum of Science, Technology and Space in Haifa and the Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem.
List of participants
Tony Travis: Deputy Director of the Sidney M. Edelstein Center and of the Jacques Loeb Center for the History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences at Ben Gurion University of the Negev. He is also a senior research fellow at the Leo Baeck Institute London. He has published extensively on the history of technology in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Noah Efron chairs the Graduate Program in STS at Bar Ilan University (near Tel-Aviv). He is also President of the Israeli Society for the History and Philosophy of Science and a member of the Executive Committee of the International Society for Science and Religion.
Tal Golan specializes in the history of science in the 18th and 19th centuries, and in the relations between science, technology and law. He is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley (1997), with a Ph.D.in the History of Science and he taught at the Ben Gurion University before coming to University of California-San Diego (UCSD) in 2004.
Shaul Katz teaches in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem: Areas of interests include the organizational and epistemological history of the Israeli research multi-system: research universities, scientific and technological institutions, and extra-scientific organizations producing para-canonic certified knowledge – all active in Ottoman and British mandatory Palestine and in the State of Israel .Shaul Katz teaches in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem
Yuval Yonnay teaches anthropology and sociology in Haifa University and is involved with the STS program.
Reusing the Industrial Past
8-11 June 2009
11-13 June 2009
3-4 July 2009
For further information please visit
18 – 19 September 2009
24-25 September 2009
Division Street, U.S.A. Graduate conference
The American Studies Graduate Committee at the University of Texas at Austin calls for papers for its upcoming graduate conference, "Division Street, U.S.A.," to be held in Austin on September 24-25, 2009. Our keynote speaker will be Eric Lott, Professor of American Studies and Cultural Studies at the University of Virginia.
Please contact the American Studies Graduate Committee firstname.lastname@example.org
18 October 2009
Michael Mahoney and The Histories of Computing(s)
The Society for the History of Technology's Special Interest Group for Computers, Information and Society (SIGCIS - www.sigcis.org) welcomes submissions for "Michael Mahoney And The Histories of Computing(s)," a daylong workshop on the history of computing in memory of historian Michael S. Mahoney. In keeping with Mahoney's broad historical perspective, we encourage submissions not only about computers themselves but also about the technologies and knowledge systems into which computers have been embedded as well as the societies in which they are used. Contributions directly related to Mahoney's work are welcome but not required.
The keynote speaker, William Aspray, will discuss Mahoney's contribution to the development of the history of computing.
The workshop will be held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA on Sunday, October 18, 2009. It will occur on the final day of the annual SHOT meeting with sessions in the morning and afternoon. SHOT has reserved that day for SIG events and therefore the workshop will not overlap scheduled sessions and most other SHOT functions. It will be held at the same site as the SHOT meeting.
SIGCIS encourages scholars of all levels and affiliations to participate.
Organized sessions and individual papers are both welcome. In keeping with the conference theme contributions that address historiographic issues or situate work within a particular history of computing are particularly welcome. Individual contributions can fit one of a variety of formats.
1. Traditional 20 to 25-minute presentations followed by a question and answer session with the SIGCIS community. In this case a one-page abstract (maximum 400 words) will be reviewed and included in the electronic conference program. Abstracts should address the paper's topic, argument, evidence used, and contribution to the existing literature. A full version of the paper should be sent to the session commentator at least a week prior to the meeting.
2. Dissertation proposals. We hope to include a ‘dissertations in progress’ session, in which individuals will present their ongoing dissertation work and seek feedback from the history of computing community. In this case submit an abstract of your dissertation proposal. The full proposal will be included in the electronic conference program if accepted. Participants will be encouraged to read this prior to the session. You will have five to ten minutes to introduce the material, leaving the bulk of time available for discussion.
3. Works in progress. This is your chance to receive informal and expert discussion of draft dissertation chapters, journal articles, or book chapters. Submit a one-page abstract (maximum 400 words) including discussion of the current state of the work and any specific kinds of feedback you are seeking. If your proposal is accepted you will need to supply the draft for discussion by 1 October for inclusion in the electronic program for the workshop. You will have five to ten minutes to introduce the material, leaving the bulk of time available for discussion.
4. Proposals in other formats are also welcome. For example round table discussions, demonstrations of software of interest to historians of computing, or "author meets critics" sessions.
SHOT presenters are encouraged to apply but must present material significantly different from that presented in the main conference program.
Individual submissions should be made at http://www.sigcis.org/?q=workshop09a,
Proposals for complete sessions should be made at http://www.sigcis.org/?q=workshop09b,
The deadline for proposals is June 22, 2009. Notifications will be sent by June 29, 2009. If you are a graduate student seeking travel funding please submit ASAP for expedited review because the SHOT deadline for funding is June 1.
Joseph November, Program Committee Chair
Jeffrey Tang, Local Arrangements Chair
Brent Jesiek, Internet Infrastructure
Thomas Haigh, SIG Chair
For more information please visit
29-31 March 2010
Carcinogens, Mutagens, Reproductive Toxicants. The Politics of Limit Values and Low Doses in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries
CFP – Deadline 26 June 2009
We are inviting proposals for an international conference on the various forms of governing specific substances and products that are now classified as Carcinogenic, Mutagenic or toxic to Reproduction(CMR for short). This conference will draw together scholars from different backgrounds - history, sociology, political science, anthropology, law, etc. - and will be held from the 29 to the 31 March 2010 in Strasbourg, France. The conference will be organised in a workshop format with pre-circulated papers. Each paper will be introduced and discussed by a commentator. We plan to move quickly to an edited publication. Proposals for papers should contain an abstract of at least five hundred words and a short curriculum vitae. The deadline for paper proposals is 26 June 2009. The list of accepted proposals will be available from 10 July 2009 and the accepted participants will be expected to submit a full manuscript version of their paper by 15 January 2010 at the latest. Funds will be available for accepted participants to cover food, accommodation, and travel expenses.
The aim of this conference is to analyse how carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction (CMR) related issues have been constructed as scientific research topics and gradually formulated and dealt with in the public and political arena until they became the subject of transnational policies that now seek to regulate the entire range of toxic substances via a UN-sponsored system of global governance. Our task, as social scientists, is therefore to classify the various ways of regulating these substances while recognising the overlap between the changes in the scientific paradigms used to assess the related hazards and the different forms of related criticism, the resulting activism and the institutional and political solutions that have been devised to highlight the changing nature of the “CMR” issue both over time and in terms of its tendency to shift from one scientific, social and political space to another.
1. Scientific knowledge and expertise
In view of the numerous works devoted to CMR-related issues, these have become firmly established as a topic of scientific research and expertise. Many debates and initiatives have focused on the health hazards of physical or chemical agents and sought to classify and define ways of protecting and regulating. Many fields and an increasing number of scientific disciplines have been involved in exploring these issues over time – oncology, toxicology, ecotoxicology, epidemiology, expology and environmental health. Within this complex mosaic, it is important to analyse the associated competing and conflicting professional and cognitive imperatives. Some scientists work on pathologies, others on environmental pollutants and others on dosimetry, all of which have triggered a rapid development in research and expertise that is frequently driven by internal dynamics but constrained by a certain number of factors inter alia controversy, activism and compliance requirements. These spheres are often linked not physically but by calculations represented in various tables showing estimated doses and regulatory or recommended limits. Due to the specialised nature of these domains, dosages and exposure limits appear to be largely disconnected from the experiences and evolving demands of ordinary populations. Another aspect concerns how scientific proof is provided and the limits to its validity for the various protagonists in controversial debates. Models used, data gathering techniques, populations studied and the definition of the reference population are all variables likely to trigger contradictory debates over what constitutes scientific proof in the eyes of both experts and lay-people.
2. The construction of national and transnational regulation systems and spaces
CMRs were largely developed and managed within national or transnational regulatory frameworks and now account for an important part of the work of these regulatory bodies. Beginning in the 1950s, the principle of setting exposure limits has mostly been taken up by the experts working in many different areas: food additives, pesticide residues, radiation, electromagnetic waves, nanoparticles and water and air pollutants – in other words the whole environment in the broadest sense of the term – dwellings, workplaces, the urban environment and the entire planet. This gave rise to the contemporary proliferation of terms for describing maximum values: Acceptable Daily Intakes (ADIs) for food additives or pesticide residues; Maximum Allowable Concentrations (MACs) or Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) for the air and workplace. The growth in the use of different terms and the occasional use of different approaches simultaneously has helped to forge the systems for detecting and managing industrial and environmental pollutants that still largely underpin contemporary CMRrelated policies.
We wish to retrace the history of CMR-related policies and regulatory bodies as well as how these have been managed over time. Our aim is to understand how these substances have been identified, formulated and integrated into scientific expertise processes. We wish to focus in particular on the transnational regulatory framework. The entire CMR field has evolved through regular interchanges between the international, European and national regulatory spheres. We would welcome research in the following areas: the early attempts to introduce concerted policies at European and international level prior to the Second World War (scientific commissions, International Labour Organization, Society of Nations, etc.) ; the growth in the number of regulatory bodies in the years after World War II and the organisation of international systems of regulation in the 1950s and 1960s; developments in this institutional landscape in the early 1970s driven by growing environmental awareness and ecological activism; and, the transformations that have taken place since the mid-1990s in the approaches to detecting and handling new crises and the emergence of new forms of governance with EU adoption of the new regulations on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restrictions of Chemicals (REACH), followed by the gradual deployment of the UN-Sponsored Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). We feel that for each period it is important to analyse both complementary and conflicting interests as well as the power games played out between the different countries and institutions involved in transnational regulation. We are interested in research that presents an overview of a specific period, regulatory approach or area as well as in research with a narrower focus. In every case, proposals need to reflect the manner in which experts deal with a whole range of frequently contradictory parameters and imperatives: scientific knowledge, economic and political choices and the social acceptability of risky technologies, etc. Moreover, because scientific expertise forms the basis for an opinion that will in turn be used in political decision-making, it is of specific interest in understanding the true role of science in the development of public policy. As such, we will focus especially on the trajectories and networks of the scientific experts involved in these systems. Our preliminary research has shown that the same scientific experts are often key players in various regulatory bodies and may have to stand up for competing approaches and interests. The fact that experts belong to and move between many different bodies is essential to understanding the modus operandi and how a common culture is forged within a regulatory system. We are also very interested in analyses focusing on how agreements and disagreements have been dealt with between experts and their impacts on public policy. As such, careful attention must be paid to how data is actually gathered and used on the one hand, and to the various obstacles encountered by scientific expertise on the other.
3. Criticism, activism and the public space
CMR-related issues gradually became a nub of social and political contention over the course of the twentieth century. The increasing importance of the related problems and proposed solutions owes much to the different forms of public criticism and activism deployed throughout the twentieth century in a wide range of different public forums. Obviously, the various forms of collective mobilisation, characterised by a return to political and association-based activism and the use of litigation, public debates and other citizens’ forums or conferences has varied according to the populations concerned, the geographical areas in which they took place and local political traditions. CMR-related issues have mobilised different populations depending on the period in question and the substances involved: these populations have ranged from workers employed in specific sectors to the population as a whole and included specific populations such as children, pregnant women, the elderly, users of a given product, commuters or consumers, and residents living near classified facilities or high-risk activities. In addition to the different populations concerned, each issue is defined by its own specific national or regional features and political traditions. The basis used to organise various umbrella associations for local residents, victims or citizens has an increasing bearing, not only on how fears are shaped, but on the cognitive stances that enable people and groups to hone their arguments and put forward demands relating to industrial and environmental exposure. These processes in turn produce new forms of activism such as those witnessed in workplaces where whistle blowing on health-related issues has helped to place working conditions and industrial risks firmly back on the agenda. Activism raises issues such as the effects of, and interaction between multiple exposure hazards and helps researchers assess the methods for researching epidemiology and toxicology.
Business history for many years was primarily associated with the study of firms and formal business institutions. Recently its scope has widened drastically to include a far greater diversity of economic institutions and practices. It is now widely accepted that Business History is not just about the history of businesses. One of the driving ideas behind the foundation of the BHC journal Enterprise & Society (reflected in the choice of name) was that business historians now had to grapple with much more fluid ideas of what "business" was and draw on a new range of concepts and approaches to deal with this. There are in fact a very wide range of human enterprises that can usefully be conceptualised as "businesses" (the organization of production and services for use and gain), and "business history" provides approaches and methodologies for the historical analysis of economic and social institutions that can be applied across a huge range of fields.
Talking Green: Oral History and the Environment
CFP – Deadline 1 June 2009
Oral History Forum d’histoire orale invites submissions for a special 2010 issue on “Talking Green: Oral History and the Environment.” Over the last several decades, environmental history has bloomed. How have oral historians engaged with this new field? What stories about nature, environmental activism, ecological disaster and natural catastrophe, green living, conservation, climate change, etc. have oral historians collected and interpreted? This special issue will feature scholarly articles as well as op-ed pieces, reports on works-in-progress, teaching resources, discussions, and reviews. Oral History Forum d’histoire orale is a peer-reviewed online journal of the Canadian Oral History Association, welcoming submissions from around the globe that present and discuss oral history research.
Our member Wolfgang König, Professor for the History of Technology at the Berlin, University of Technology (Technische Universität Berlin) was elected as member of acatech, the German Academy for the Engineering Sciences (Deutsche Akademie der Technikwissenschaften).
Fickers, Andreas / Müller, Ego (eds.): Interactiviteit. Special issue of the Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis, vol 11 (2008-2).
The special issue deals with the history of interactive approaches to media dating back to the 1960s; contributions are written in Dutch and English.
Inkster, Ian (ed.): By Whose Standards? Standardisation, Stability and Uniformity in the History of Information and Electrical Technologies, Special Issue of History of Technology, vol 28 (2008, published 2009).
Technical standards have received an increasing attention in recent years from various disciplines of research. Often inquiry focuses on the emergence of stability, technical closure and culturally uniform modernity. Yet current literature also emphasizes the durability of localism, heterogeneity and user choice. This collection investigates the apparent tension between these trends using case studies from across the 19th and 20th centuries.
שאול כץ: לתולדות היסטוריה הטכנולוגית של ארץ-ישראל בשלהי התקופה העותמאנית-שלשה חקרי-מקרה, ספרי העלייה השנייה , כרך 1, עורך ישראל ברטל (יד בן צבי, תשנ"ח), עמודים 189-212.
Alexander Block: The Development of Military Technology in Palestine / Israel (1933-1947 (Technology transfer as a ladder to success. Ph.D Thesis, Tel- Aviv University, supervised by Ido Yavetz and Aron Shai,1998.
Anthony S. Travis (3 books): The Rainbow Makers: The Origins of the Synthetic Dyestuffs Industry in Western Europe. Lehigh University Press, Bethlehem, London 1993; (with Carsten Reinhardt) Heinrich Caro and the Creation of Modern Chemical Industry. Kluwer, Dordrecht, Boston 2000; and Dyes Made in America, 1915-1980: The Calco Chemical Company, American Cyanamid and the Raritan River. Edelstein Center Jerusalem/Hexagon Press Arizona US, Jeremy Mills UK, 2004.