In the late 1960s an eclectic group of engineers joined the antiwar and civil rights activists of the time in agitating for change. The engineers were fighting to remake their profession, challenging their fellow engineers to embrace a more humane vision of technology. In Engineers for Change, Matthew Wisnioski offers an account of this conflict within engineering, linking it to deep-seated assumptions about technology and American life.
The postwar period in America saw a near-utopian belief in technology’s beneficence. Beginning in the mid-1960s, however, society–influenced by the antitechnology writings of such thinkers as Jacques Ellul and Lewis Mumford–began to view technology in a more negative light. Engineers themselves were seen as conformist organization men propping up the military-industrial complex. A dissident minority of engineers offered critiques of their profession that appropriated concepts from technology’s critics. These dissidents were criticized in turn by conservatives who regarded them as countercultural Luddites. And yet, as Wisnioski shows, the radical minority spurred the professional elite to promote a new understanding of technology as a rapidly accelerating force that our institutions are ill-equipped to handle. The negative consequences of technology spring from its very nature–and not from engineering’s failures. “Sociotechnologists” were recruited to help society adjust to its technology. Wisnioski argues that in responding to the challenges posed by critics within their profession, engineers in the 1960s helped shape our dominant contemporary understanding of technological change as the driver of history.
The Birth of an Indian Profession. Engineers, Industry and the State, 1900-1947.
by Aparajith Ramnath
Oxford University Press, India, 2017
Charting the development of the engineering profession in India from 1900 to 1947, The Birth of an Indian Profession is the first synoptic history of engineers in modern India. Through detailed case studies of public works, railways, and industrial engineers, this book argues that changes in the profession were both caused by and contributed to industrialization in the country.
As part of an Indo-French project on the history and sociology of Indian Engineers, I am working on the Indian personnel of the Public Works Department of the Bombay Presidency from c. 1850 to c. 1950.
If your (great-) grandfather happened to be an engineer in this Department (please check the following table which lists the names, dates of birth, etc. of engineers employed in the PWD at that time), I will be happy to share with you the details I have collected in the archives about his career. And I would also be more than interested to learn about your family history.
Please feel free to contact me at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and to circulate this call. Thank you!
Call for papers for a special issue of Cahiers d’Histoire du Cnam
“Engineers who read accounts”. Technical and managerial knowledge from the standpoint of cost accounting (1850-1950)
edited by Marco Bertilorenzi (DISSGEA, University of Padua) and Ferruccio Ricciardi (CNRS, Lise-Cnam)
Since the second half of the 19th century, engineers’ tasks have been progressively re-oriented to help the rationalisation of supplies, of flows and of human capital. This transition from a mere technical level role to another in which managerial capabilities were included happened in the midst of a broad transformation of the industrial economy and, more specifically, in sectors such as the mining and steel industries. It is no coincidence that at the beginning of the 20th century, two engineers – Frederick Winslow Taylor et Henri Fayol – significantly contributed to the casting of the conceptual kernel of the new science of modern management. Workforce administration went hand in hand with the management of resources, linking the ability to administer current business with skills in forecasting and anticipating. This new management knowledge – still blurred and not yet formalised – was equipped with a range of new tools, such as for instance Gantt charts, flow charts and descriptive forms of job positions. Among these new tools, cost accounting had a special place because it served both to guide the enterprise and to manage the workforce. The organisational needs of the big enterprise included the necessity of knowing and taking control over costs by anticipation, and contributing to the definition of production and investment plans. Both in France and abroad, engineers played a central role in the managerial transformation of the enterprise. In this special issue of the Cahiers d’histoire du Cnam, we aim to gather contributions concerning the relationship between engineers and cost accounting during the historical development of major industrial enterprise (1850-1950).
Today, the engineering profession, more than any other, seems to embody the transformations which affect contemporary India. It simultaneously symbolizes the rise of the hypothetical « middle classes » and the positioning of India as an emerging power in the international job market, since the country has become one of the preferred destinations of large technological firms. Each year, India awards 3,50,000 engineering degrees. Continue reading →
À partir des années 1880, l’électricité est progressivement devenue une technologie centrale, qui va procurer des biens et assurer des services nouveaux, bouleversant ainsi la production industrielle, l’économie et les pratiques sociales et culturelles. De confidentiel, son usage ne cessera de s’étendre, devenant massif et planétaire, et aujourd’hui indispensable jusqu’aux détails de la vie quotidienne. Pour fonder et déployer un système de production, de transport et de distribution efficaces de l’électricité dans tous les pays, pour concevoir, fabriquer et diffuser les machines, outils et objets divers fonctionnant par ce moyen, en somme pour former un monde nouveau, il faut former un corps de techniciens spécialisés : ce seront les ingénieurs électriciens, pour lesquels seront élaborés et mis en œuvre des cursus dédiés. Cet ouvrage retrace la naissance et la croissance de ces formations, à partir de la fin du XIXe siècle, en Europe et sur le continent américain, et leur rôle dans le développement des différents États. Issu des travaux d’un colloque international tenu à Prague, il rassemble les contributions de 28 historiens portant sur 15 pays.
From studying the economic strength of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) firms in India to analysing the background of the person at the helm of these firms, a French senior sociologist has attempted to take a closer look into the sociography of the major companies of the ICT sector in India.
“The birth anniversary of M. Visvesvaraya (September 15) is marked each year as Engineer’s Day. As another Engineer’s Day arrives, the now-familiar statistics will be rolled out again: lakhs of engineering graduates are produced in India each year from the thousands of engineering colleges that dot the country. This should lead us to examine some questions. What is the secret behind Indians’ love affair with engineering? Are there socio-cultural factors that make the Indian particularly suited to engineering, or that make engineering particularly desirable to Indians?… “
Marco Bertilorenzi, Jean-Philippe Passaqui et Anne-Françoise Garçon, Entre technique et gestion, une histoire des « ingénieurs civils des mines », XIXe-XXe siècles, Paris, Presses des Mines, 2016
Les « ingénieurs civils des mines », longtemps restés dans l’ombre de ceux du Corps des mines, ont pourtant exercé une influence décisive dans le processus d’industrialisation en France et ailleurs. Issus tout d’abord des Écoles des mines de Paris et de Saint-Étienne, auxquelles se sont ensuite ajoutées celles d’Alès, de Douai, de Nancy, et enfin de Nantes et d’Albi, les ingénieurs civils des mines ont été, au cours des XIXe et XXe siècles, des acteurs majeurs, omniprésents, de l’industrialisation.
À quoi est due une telle réussite ? Le « complexe technique » des mines est intrinsèquement lié à d’autres industries, telles que la métallurgie et la chimie, et implique la maîtrise de compétences diversifiées, étoffées, afin de mener une exploitation rationnelle des ressources nationales. Cependant, les seules compétences techniques sont insuffisantes ; elles doivent être associées à une maîtrise complète de la gestion et de l’administration d’une entreprise industrielle, un savoir-faire dont disposent les ingénieurs civils des mines.
Another global history of science: making space for India and China ASIF SIDDIQI
Green-revolution epistemologies in China and India: technocracy and revolution in the production of scientific knowledge and peasant identity MADHUMITA SAHA and SIGRID SCHMALZER
Investigating nature within different discursive and ideological contexts: case studies of Chinese and Indian coal capitals PIN-HSIEN WU
Negotiating natural history in transitional China and British India FA-TI FAN and JOHN MATHEW
How deep is love? The engagement with India in Joseph Needham’s historiography of China LEON ANTONIO ROCHA
The future arrives earlier in Palo Alto (but when it’s high noon there, it’s already tomorrow in Asia): a conversation about writing science fiction and reimagining histories of science and technology
ANNA GREENSPAN and ANIL MENON and KAVITA PHILIP and JEFFREY WASSERSTROM
Planning for science and technology in China and India JAHNAVI PHALKEY and ZUOYUE WANG
Studying the snow leopard: reconceptualizing conservation across the China–India border MICHAEL LEWIS and E. ELENA SONGSTER
High-tech utopianism: Chinese and Indian science parks in the neo-liberal turn DIGANTA DAS and TONG LAM
Reengineering India. Work, Capital, and Class in an Offshore Economy, Oxford University Press, July 2016, 359 p., ISBN: 9780199461486.
It is a comprehensive anthropological study of the Indian IT industry
It is unique in that it draws on long-term and in-depth ethnographic research inside software organizations and based on extensive interviews with IT professionals and others connected with the industry
It examines the origins of software capital, the shaping of the Indian IT workforce, the new management practices and forms of work introduced in IT workspaces, and the connections between IT and the middle class in an overarching and coherent fashion.
The purpose is to briefly document the history of the Public Works Department (P.W.D.) from about 1910 to 1947 and to give some insight in respect to: ·The Engineers ·The infrastructure projects of the time
The basis is historic reports available from resources published on the internet and the author’s observations of the period. The author’s father was a Sub Divisional Officer of the P.W.D. from 1922 to 1955
“Copy despatches to India on the results of the final examinations” – a somewhat dry description of a file from the Public Works Department of the India Office. It obscures the fact that the contents offer fascinating glimpses into the world of late Victorian technical education and the talents (or lack thereof) of the young men who underwent training in Britain before taking up positions in India. They passed through various courses of instruction at the Royal Indian Engineering College at Cooper’s Hill in Surrey, which opened in 1872.”