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The Artificial Ear

Cochlear Implants and the Culture of Deafness

Stuart Blume

Part ethnography and part historical study, The Artificial Ear is based on interviews with researchers who were pivotal in the early development and implementation of the new technology necessary for cochlear implants. Through an analysis of the scientific and clinical literature, Stuart Blume reconstructs the history of artificial hearing from its conceptual origins in the 1930s, to the first attempt at cochlear implantation in Paris in the 1950s, and to the widespread clinical application of the "bionic ear" since the 1980s.

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Artisan/Practitioners and the Rise of the New Sciences, 1400-1600

This book provides the historical background for a central issue in the history of science: the influence of artisans, craftsmen, and other practitioners on the emergent empirical methodologies that characterized the “new sciences” of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Long offers a coherent account and critical revision of the “Zilsel thesis,” an influential etiological narrative which argues that such craftsmen were instrumental in bringing about the “Scientific Revolution.”

Artisan/Practitioners reassesses the issue of artisanal influence from three different perspectives: the perceived relationships between art and nature; the Vitruvian architectural tradition with its appreciation of both theory and practice; and the development of “trading zones”—arenas in which artisans and learned men communicated in substantive ways. These complex social and intellectual developments, the book argues, underlay the development of the empirical sciences.

This volume provides new discussion and synthesis of a theory that encompasses broad developments in European history and study of the natural world. It will be a valuable resource for college-level teaching, and for scholars and others interested in the history of science, late medieval and early modern European history, and the Scientific Revolution.

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Asbestos and Fire

Technological Tradeoffs and the Body at Risk

Rachel Maines

For much of the industrial era, asbestos was a widely acclaimed benchmark material. During its heyday, it was manufactured into nearly three thousand different products, most of which protected life and property from heat, flame, and electricity. It was used in virtually every industry from hotel keeping to military technology to chemical manufacturing, and was integral to building construction from shacks to skyscrapers in every community across the United States. Beginning in the mid-1960s, however, this once popular mineral began a rapid fall from grace as growing attention to the serious health risks associated with it began to overshadow the protections and benefits it provided.

In this thought-provoking and controversial book, Rachel Maines challenges the recent vilification of asbestos by providing a historical perspective on Americans’ changing perceptions about risk. She suggests that the very success of asbestos and other fire-prevention technologies in containing deadly blazes has led to a sort of historical amnesia about the very risks they were supposed to reduce. 

Asbestos and Fire
is not only the most thoroughly researched and balanced look at the history of asbestos, it is also an important contribution to a larger debate that considers how the risks of technological solutions should be evaluated.  As technology offers us ever-increasing opportunities to protect and prevent, Maines urges that learning to accept and effectively address the unintended consequences of technological innovations is a growing part of our collective responsibility.

 

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Atmospheric Science at NASA

A History

Erik M. Conway

This book offers an informed and revealing account of NASA’s involvement in the scientific understanding of the Earth’s atmosphere. Since the nineteenth century, scientists have attempted to understand the complex processes of the Earth’s atmosphere and the weather created within it. This effort has evolved with the development of new technologies—from the first instrument-equipped weather balloons to multibillion-dollar meteorological satellite and planetary science programs. Erik M. Conway chronicles the history of atmospheric science at NASA, tracing the story from its beginnings in 1958, the International Geophysical Year, through to the present, focusing on NASA’s programs and research in meteorology, stratospheric ozone depletion, and planetary climates and global warming. But the story is not only a scientific one. NASA’s researchers operated within an often politically contentious environment. Although environmental issues garnered strong public and political support in the 1970s, the following decades saw increased opposition to environmentalism as a threat to free market capitalism. Atmospheric Science at NASA critically examines this politically controversial science, dissecting the often convoluted roles, motives, and relationships of the various institutional actors involved—among them NASA, congressional appropriation committees, government weather and climate bureaus, and the military.

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Auto Mechanics

Technology and Expertise in Twentieth-Century America

Kevin L. Borg

The history of automobiles is not just the story of invention, manufacturing, and marketing; it is also a story of repair. Auto Mechanics opens the repair shop to historical study—for the first time—by tracing the emergence of a dirty, difficult, and important profession. Kevin L. Borg's study spans a century of automotive technology—from the horseless carriage of the late nineteenth century to the "check engine" light of the late twentieth. Drawing from a diverse body of source material, Borg explores how the mechanic’s occupation formed and evolved within the context of broad American fault lines of class, race, and gender and how vocational education entwined these tensions around the mechanic’s unique expertise. He further shows how aspects of the consumer rights and environmental movements, as well as the design of automotive electronics, reflected and challenged the social identity and expertise of the mechanic. In the history of the American auto mechanic, Borg finds the origins of a persistent anxiety that even today accompanies the prospect of taking one's car in for repair.

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Aviation Infrastructure Performance

A Study in Comparative Political Economy

edited by Clifford Winston and Gines de Rus

Aviation performance is an important cog in modern globalized economies, which demand flexibility, mobility, efficiency, and dependability. Airport delays have gone from being a nuisance to being a salient public concern, drawing the ire of even the White House. In this important book, international transportation experts compare and contrast how different nations have managed their airports and air traffic control systems and how well they are meeting the needs of their people. The book's cross-national approach encompasses several different institutional arrangements, making it a timely and valuable study in comparative political economy. Among the countries studied, the United States is sometimes seen as a bastion of free markets, at the forefront of airline deregulation, but its airports and air traffic control system are publicly owned and operated. The same is true in continental Europe, for the most part. In contrast, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Canada are experimenting with privatization, while even mainland China is allowing the private sector to participate in airport ownership. Which methods work best, and under what circumstances? This book provides the answers.

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Back on Track

American Railroad Accidents and Safety, 1965–2015

Mark Aldrich

Throughout the early twentieth century, railroad safety steadily improved across the United States. But by the 1960s, American railroads had fallen apart, the result of a regulatory straightjacket that eroded profitability and undermined safety. Collisions, derailments, worker fatalities, and grade crossing mishaps skyrocketed, while hazmat disasters exploded into newspaper headlines. In Back on Track, his sequel to Death Rode the Rails, Mark Aldrich traces the history of railroad accidents beginning in 1965, when Congress responded to bankrupt and scandal-ridden carriers by enacting a new safety regime. Aldrich details the federalization of rail safety and the implementation of a massive grade crossing program. He touches on post-1976 economic deregulation, which provided critical financing that underwrote better public safety. He also explores how the National Transportation Safety Board acted as a public scold to shine bright lights on private failings, while Federal Railroad Administration regulations reinforced market incentives for better safety. Ultimately, Aldrich concludes, the past 50 years have seen great strides in restoring railroad safety while enhancing industry profitability. Arguing that it was not inadequate safety regulation but rather stifling economic regulation that initially caused an uptick in train accidents, Back on Track is both a paen to the return of more competitive railroading and the only comprehensive history of the safety of modern American railroads. Praise for Death Rode the Rails "A masterful study of the complex evolution of railroad safety."—American Historical Review "Students of rail safety, and today's Class I railroad managers, need to read this volume."—Trains "Aldrich has created a masterpiece. His research is extensive, drawing on a rich variety of obscure yet relevant sources."—Register of the Kentucky Historical Society "One of the first large-scale scholarly studies of railroad safety in America."—Railroad History "A thought-provoking and well-grounded contribution to the history of American economic development."—Journal of American History "Pioneering . . . A central message of Aldrich's book is that 'little accidents' played a crucial though until now largely hidden role in the gradual evolution of a risk society."—Technology and Culture "A work of merit . . . essential reading for historians of transport safety, business, and technology."—Journal of Transport History "Impressive and thoroughly researched . . . Demonstrates how railroad safety evolved from the intersection of market pressures, technology, and public sentiment."—Journal of Southern History

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Beastly Natures

Animals, Humans, and the Study of History

This volume of interdisciplinary essays on animals and cultural history boasts a stellar list of international contributors. It will be a valuable text for university courses in the fast-growing field of animal studies.

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Becoming Yellow

A Short History of Racial Thinking

Michael Keevak

In their earliest encounters with Asia, Europeans almost uniformly characterized the people of China and Japan as white. This was a means of describing their wealth and sophistication, their willingness to trade with the West, and their presumed capacity to become Christianized. But by the end of the seventeenth century the category of whiteness was reserved for Europeans only. When and how did Asians become "yellow" in the Western imagination? Looking at the history of racial thinking, Becoming Yellow explores the notion of yellowness and shows that this label originated not in early travel texts or objective descriptions, but in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century scientific discourses on race.

From the walls of an ancient Egyptian tomb, which depicted people of varying skin tones including yellow, to the phrase "yellow peril" at the beginning of the twentieth century in Europe and America, Michael Keevak follows the development of perceptions about race and human difference. He indicates that the conceptual relationship between East Asians and yellow skin did not begin in Chinese culture or Western readings of East Asian cultural symbols, but in anthropological and medical records that described variations in skin color. Eighteenth-century taxonomers such as Carl Linnaeus, as well as Victorian scientists and early anthropologists, assigned colors to all racial groups, and once East Asians were lumped with members of the Mongolian race, they began to be considered yellow.

Demonstrating how a racial distinction took root in Europe and traveled internationally, Becoming Yellow weaves together multiple narratives to tell the complex history of a problematic term.

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The Beginning of Heaven and Earth Has No Name

Seven Days with Second-Order Cybernetics

Heinz von Foerster

Heinz von Foerster was the inventor of second-order cybernetics, which recognizes the investigator as part of the system he is investigating. The Beginning of Heaven and Earth Has No Name provides an accessible, nonmathematical, and comprehensive overview of von Foerster’s cybernetic ideas and of the philosophy latent within them. It distills concepts scattered across the lifework of this scientific polymath and influential interdisciplinarian. At the same time, as a book-length interview, it does justice to von Foerster’s élan as a speaker and improviser, his skill as a raconteur. Developed from a week-long conversation between the editors and von Foerster near the end of his life, this work playfully engages von Foerster in developing the difference his notion of second-order cybernetics makes for topics ranging from emergence, life, order, and thermodynamics to observation, recursion, cognition, perception, memory, and communication. The book gives an English-speaking audience a new ease of access to the rich thought and generous spirit of this remarkable and protean thinker.

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