Professors take on national leadership roles

Deborah Fitzgerald

Two professors in the School of the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences and one in the MIT Sloan School are currently serving as leaders of national associations in their respective fields.

Deborah Fitzgerald, professor in the program Science, Technology and Society (STS), is president of the Agricultural History Society; Rosalind Williams, director of STS and Robert M. Metcalfe Professor of Writing, is president of the Society for the History of Technology; and JoAnne Yates, Sloan Distinguished Professor of Management in MIT's Sloan School, is president of the Business History Conference, 2004-2005.

Dean Philip S. Khoury of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences described the three women as "outstanding historians of technology and science who have been wonderfully honored for their outstanding leadership of their academic guilds. Each brings true luster to the humanities and social sciences at MIT and nationally."

Each professor continues her teaching and research while providing leadership in professional groups outside MIT.

Fitzgerald, who came to MIT in 1988, focuses in her research on the industrialization of agriculture and food, particularly in 20th century America. She is co-organizer (with MIT historian Harriet Ritvo) of the "Modern Times, Rural Places" seminar series. She is the author of "The Business of Breeding: Hybrid Corn in Illinois, 1890-1920" (Cornell, 1990), and "Every Farm a Factory: The Industrial Ideal in American Agriculture" (Yale, 2003), which won the Theodore Saloutos Prize for best book of the year.

Williams came to MIT in 1980 and has served as Associate Chair of the MIT Faculty and as Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education. She is a cultural historian of technology whose current research uses literary texts of the late 19th and early 20th century to portray the impact of global transportation and communication systems.

Williams is the author of "Dream Worlds: Mass Consumption in Late Nineteenth-Century France" (University of California, 1982); "Notes on the Underground: An Essay on Technology, Society, and the Imagination" (MIT Press, 1990), and "Retooling: A Historian Confronts Technological Change" (MIT Press, 2002), which draws on her experiences at MIT.

Yates' forthcoming book, "Structuring the Information Age: Life Insurance and Technology in the Twentieth Century," examines the life insurance industry's adoption and use of information technology both before and after the arrival of computers. She is the author of "Control through Communication: The Rise of System in American Management" (1989). She also studies contemporary communication and information technology adoption and use as they shape and are shaped by work practices over time. Yates came to MIT in 1980.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 30, 2005 (download PDF).

Topics: Awards, honors and fellowships, Faculty

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