We often observe here that T&C ordinarily publishes the manuscripts which are next up in the editing queue. This is done in fairness to our authors, for one thing. But we also make the claim that the unplanned serendipities of this practice offer insight into the collective intellectual energy of the authors who frequent T&C’s inbox over the years. Patterns often emerge first for the editorial team when we notice surprising congruencies, perhaps most notably in the unplanned theme issue of July 2008, when eight independently submitted articles researched water technologies from four continents across a thousand years. They called our attention to water and technology, which looks to be an important research focus for a long time to come.
This issue—Volume 50, No 4, the 200th issue at T&C’s half-century mark—has its own remarkable serendipity on offer. Had we planned an anniversary issue we could hardly have done better. Robert C. Post’s beautifully written contemplation of Mel Kranzberg’s life situates SHOT’s founding decades in the context of Mel’s youth and young adulthood. Anecdotal fragments from Mel Kranzberg’s life have long abounded, but until Post immersed himself in the vast archival record, no one was in a position to write a coherent and compelling biographical narrative of SHOT’s founder. October’s thematic cluster on engineering education in the U.S., India, and Colombia evokes the founding era as well. SHOT emerged from the collective energy of Kranzberg and a handful of mostly younger scholars who gathered for the June 1957 meeting of the American Association of Engineering Education. That meeting marks SHOT’s origin as much as any single event. Finally, David N. Lucsko’s “Classics Revisited” study of John Bell Rae treats four of his books, the first of which turns fifty this year as well. Serendipity lives.
A great deal of editorial sweat equity has gone into the remarkable triad of articles about engineering education. Our thanks to John K. Brown, Gary Lee Downey, and Maria Paula Diogo for guest editing the set. In their introduction the editors frame the issue’s three articles within an enduring question: how historians of technology might engage engineering education and engineering educators in the present. Thanks to the guest editors’ work introducing the three articles to our readers after the ordinary manner of “In This Issue,” I have the luxury of indulging in a little cherry picking in this space instead. Here, then, are a few quotes from each article, as well as from Post’s and Lucsko’s essays, that caught my fancy for provocative insight or rhetorical grace, or both.
“The Normativities of Engineers: Engineering Education and History of Technology” (John K. Brown, Gary Lee Downey, and Maria Paula Diogo)
“All is not well in the history of technology—and for that matter in the engineering profession—at least in Europe and the United States. Now, more than ever, the two fields need each other. Like all historical subfields that grew up in and after the 1960s, the history of technology clamored for decades to gain currency among ‘mainstream’ history, only to discover that the center had melted away—if it had ever existed.” (pp. 745–46)
“Success as an academic discipline of historians has meant the loss of that ecumenical quality that SHOT’s founders sought, achieved, and maintained for decades.” (p. 746, my emphasis)
“In all, the EC 2000 [ABET] criteria appear to open up a broad entrée to the liberal studies in engineering education. Given their many ties to engineering, historians of technology seem well positioned among the liberal-studies disciplines to capitalize on this opportunity. But historians of technology must undertake deliberate efforts—as individuals [End Page a] and as a society—to build these bridges while preserving the critical analysis that is central to the humanities, and often in tension with engineering’s normativities.” (p. 751)
“As editors of this cluster, we are well aware that this introduction appears to stray from tradition, veering from an overview of the historiography to a consideration of the uses of history. But questions of use and audience are—or should be—essential...