I am a historian of the social and cultural life of machines. My research focuses on the intertwined histories of nature, technology, trust, and social order in modern Europe and North America. I’m particularly interested in what histories of technological failure reveal about the place of machines in the culture and politics of modern societies.
I completed my PhD in History of Science at Harvard University and I am currently Associate Professor of History at York University in Toronto. From 2009-13, I served as Associate Director of York’s Institute for Science and Technology Studies (iSTS). I am a co-founder of Toronto’s TechnoScience Salon, a public forum for humanities-based discussions about science and technology. And I currently serve as an Executive Member of the Society for the History of Technology and a contributing editor for Technologies Stories.
My first book, The Unreliable Nation: Hostile Nature and Technological Failure in the Cold War (MIT Press), won the Sidney Edelstein Prize for best scholarly work in the history of technology. In 2017, I received the Abbott Payson Usher Prize from the Society for the History of Technology. My current book project — Reliable Humans, Trustworthy Machines — is funded by a SSHRC Insight Development Grant and investigates how observers from the late-18th to the mid-20th centuries saw machine failures as a problem of the self: a problem of the kinds of people that failing machines created, or threatened, or presupposed.