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November 6th, 2017

SHOT Panel: Thinking With Ann Johnson

The Society for the History of Technology held its annual meeting in Philadelphia in late October 2017. It was the first SHOT meeting since the death of engineering historian Ann Johnson on December 11, 2016. To celebrate her life and call attention to her lasting contributions to the field, several of her colleagues organized a roundtable on Friday, October 27th, entitled “Thinking With Ann Johnson. You can read their speeches here.

The panel began with opening remarks from session chair Karen Rader (Virginia Commonwealth University) and David Brock (Computer History Museum).

The next speaker was Alexandra Hui (Mississippi State University), who discussed Johnson’s efforts to move beyond simplistic understandings of interdisciplinarity.

Allison Marsh (University of South Carolina) provided a deeply personal reflection on her time working in the USC history department with Johnson.

Patrick McCray (University of California, Santa Barbara) took the podium to discuss one of Johnson’s favorite topics: emerging technologies!

Timothy Minella (University of South Carolina), one of Johnson’s graduate students, was the next speaker. His talk on Johnson’s fascination with early American natural history illustrated the breadth of her research interests.

Johnson once asked how the history of science might change if it were written from the perspective of applied science. In his talk, Cyrus Mody (Maastricht University) tried to answer this question by looking at several important milestones in the development of nanotechnology.

The organizer of this roundtable, Lee Vinsel (Virginia Tech), presented a more theoretical take on Johnson’s scholarship, arguing that her work was crucial to helping historians move beyond conventional approaches toward the social construction of technology (SCOT).

The final speaker of the panel was Adelheid Voskuhl (University of Pennsylvania), who focused her remarks on Johnson’s love of philosophy.

Following their individual comments, the roundtable participants gathered in the front of the room to take questions from the audience and provide final reflections on Johnson’s legacy.

To read more about the session, access https://storify.com/bhgross144/thinking-with-ann-johnson

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