Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30 a.m. — 10:45 a.m., 129 Ross Hall

Amy Bix:

Office hours: Tuesdays, 11-noon and 1-4 p.m.; plus other times by


Office: 633 Ross Hall, 294-0122

E-mail: abix@iastate.edu



This course examines history of American technologies from colonial times to the present, concentrating on the late 19th and the 20th century. This upper-level history seminar emphasizes exploration of various primary and secondary source materials, leading up to original research and writing. Broad themes of the course include the evolution of different forms of technology; development of the modern engineering profession; the relationship between science and technology; the different ways technological change has affected society and the ways different people at different times have regarded technology and shaped its development.



This course includes two meetings per week, attendance at which is mandatory. Meetings will include short lectures, discussions of readings, in-class exercises, viewing of films, and other activities; these are also your opportunities to ask questions about course procedures and about readings or lecture material.

As an upper-level history seminar, one main requirement of this course is to write an original research paper (more below). There will also be two short writing assignments and two short exams during the semester (but no final exam). Exams cover material presented in lectures, readings, discussions, and audio-visual material. Students must bring blue books and a pen to use on exams — points will be deducted for exams written in pencil or not in blue books. Students, including graduating seniors, are responsible for completing all exams by the proper dates; any exam not completed by semester's end automatically converts to a zero. Students experiencing difficulty should first consult the professor, but may also wish to use ISU's Academic Learning Lab or Tutoring Services. Standard ISU policies on academic dishonesty will be applied.

You will notice that each week’s lecture includes overhead transparencies listing key concepts, names and dates, quotations, and other material. To save you frantic scribbling during class, I plan to post copies of this material on the web, through the ISU website (exact web address to be announced). I will try to post each lecture’s overhead material on the web ahead of time (barring computer problems, etc.); some students find it useful to print out copies and bring them along to lecture, as an aid in taking notes. Please remember: having these webnotes is no substitute for attending class yourself — they contain essential facts, but are

NOT a full transcript of a lecture’s information and ideas!

Course requirements and grading:

1. Class participation - 10% of final grade:

a. Attendance;

b. Constructive participation in class discussion and evidence

of having completed reading assignments;

2. Two short take-home writing assignments, dates below — 15% each.

3. Two examinations (dates below) - 10% each:

Exams will be an in-class set of short-identification questions;

4. 18-20 page research paper - 40% of final grade:

a. Required consultation on topic (date below);

b. Required first draft (date below; failure to turn in first

draft will mean substantial deductions in the final grade)

c. Final version, incorporating suggested revisions, due at

last class meeting before finals week.



These books can be purchased in paperback at university bookstores. Copies should also be available on library reserve.

1. Marcus, Alan and Howard Segal; Technology in America: A Brief History, SECOND EDITION; Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1999.

2. Corn, Joseph; The Winged Gospel: America's Romance with Aviation 1900-1950; Johns Hopkins, 2002.

3. Meyer, Stephen; The Five Dollar Day: Labor Management and Social Control in the Ford Motor Complex, 1908-1921; SUNY, 1981.

Additional brief reading material will be distributed in class ahead of time, particularly as noted by the asterisks below, and a list of these readings will be posted on the web, updated as appropriate.



Tuesday, August 27 and Thursday, August 29 -

Course introduction, technology in early America;


Tuesday, September 3 and Thursday, September 5

Early nineteenth-century transport, agriculture & manufacture;

ASSIGNMENT for week of 9/3:

Tuesday, September 10 and Thursday, September 12 -

Technology for an expanding nation;

ASSIGNMENT for week of 9/10:

- Make required appointment to consult Dr. Bix on proposed paper

topic by October 8!

Tuesday, September 17 and Thursday, September 19 -

Technology and business: Structure, system & standardization;

ASSIGNMENT for week of 9/17:

- readings to be handed out in class in connection with

WRITING ASSIGNMENT #1 (due the week of Oct. 1).

Tuesday, September 24 and Thursday, September 26 —

The age of electrical engineering: Edison and new systems;

ASSIGNMENT for week of 9/24:

- Marcus and Segal, p. 143-240.


Tuesday, October 1 and Thursday, October 3 -

Engineering education and professionalization;

ASSIGNMENT for week of 10/1:

- Meyer, The Five Dollar Day, p. 1-94.

- EXAMINATION #1 coming up on Tuesday, October 8 !

Tuesday, October 8 and Thursday, October 10 -

Turn of the century technology and America's automobility;

EXAMINATION #1 on Tuesday, October 8;

ASSIGNMENT for week of 10/8:

- Meyer, The Five Dollar Day, p. 95-202.


Tuesday, October 15 and Thursday, October 17 —

Technology, work patterns, and labor issues;

ASSIGNMENT for week of 10/15:

- Corn, The Winged Gospel, p. 3-90.

Tuesday, October 22 and Thursday, October 24 -

Implications of the "Machine Age";

ASSIGNMENT for week of 10/22:

- readings to be handed out in class in connection with

WRITING ASSIGNMENT #2 (due the week of Nov. 5).

Tuesday, October 29 and Thursday, October 31 —

Aviation, prosperity, and technological optimism;

ASSIGNMENT for week of 10/29:


Tuesday, November 5 and Thursday, November 7 -

Industrial and social engineering: The Depression Era;

ASSIGNMENT for week of 11/7:

Tuesday, November 12 and Thursday, November 14 -

Technology at war - Mobilization of research and the atom bomb;

ASSIGNMENT for week of 11/12:

- EXAMINATION #2 coming up on Tuesday, November 19 !

Tuesday, November 19 and Thursday, November 21 —

Technology and the Cold War, and the space race;

EXAMINATION #2 on Tuesday, November 19;

ASSIGNMENT for week of 11/19:

Tuesday, November 26 and Thursday, November 28 — no class

Tuesday, December 3 and Thursday, December 5 -

The Information Age - From ENIAC and MANIAC to the MAC;

ASSIGNMENT for week of 12/3:

Tuesday, December 10 and Thursday, December 12 -

Is Small Beautiful? Modern debates over technology;

ASSIGNMENT for week of 12/10:

- Final version of paper due Thursday, December 12 !