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Larry Owens

Professor Emeritus


Degree: Ph.D., history of science, Princeton (1987); Ph.D., biochemistry, Rutgers (1972).

Field of interest: Science and technology

Courses Recently Offered:
Comparative Scientific Traditions (graduate - undergraduate)
Critical Approaches in the History of Science and Technology (graduate)
Theaters of Knowledge: Critical Approach (graduate)
Science and Technology in the Western World, Parts I and II (undergraduate)
The Computer: History and Culture (undergraduate)
The Rise and Fall of the Rocket State (undergraduate)
Weapons and Their Societies from Muskets to Missiles (undergraduate)

Research Interests and Professional Activities
My research and writing range over the last century and a variety of American topics from the history of engineering, the laboratory as a workplace, mathematical machinery and computers as cultural artifacts, and, most generally, the relationships between science, technology, and culture. As a teacher, I'm happiest in my introductory survey of science and technology in the western world and in upper-division and graduate seminars on comparative scientific traditions and on science and culture in the cold war. Recently, I’ve begun work on a book tentatively titled "The Rise and Fall of the Rocket State: Ballistic Culture in Cold War America."

Sample Writings:
"Science ‘Fiction’ and the Mobilization of Youth in the Cold War. Quest: The Spaceflight Quarterly 14 (3) (2007): 52-57.
"Sam Prescott and the Sanitary Vision at MIT: The Search for the Perfect Cup of Coffee," Technology & Culture 45(4) (2004): 795-807.
"The Cat and the Bullet: A Ballistic Fable for the Modern World," The Massachusetts Review 45(1) (2004): 178-190.  (Nominated for the 2004 Pushcart Prize)
"Silo Memories: A Titan II Missile Site ‘Under Construction,’ a talk presented at the History of Science Society annual meeting in Cambridge, MA, November 2004.
"Science in the United States," in Science in the Twentieth Century (1997), ed. John Krige and Dominique Pestre.
"Where are We Going, Phil Morse? Changing Agendas and the Rhetoric of Obviousness in the Transformation of Computing at MIT, 1939-1957," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 18(4) (1996): 34-42.(Winner of the IEEE award for the best paper published in 1996 on the history of computing.)
"Pure and Sound Government: Laboratories, Playing Fields, and Gymnasia in the 19th Century Search for Order," Isis 76 (1985): 182-194. (Winner of the Schuman Prize of the History of Science Society)