The Presidential Address by Michael Grace.
“Stuffed in attic trunks and the minds of aging scientists”? Reflections on Technical History and the History of Technology
It is widely accepted that the world as we know it today can only be understood by reference to technology and its history. However, it is the impacts and consequences of technologies, rather than their inherent technical development, that provides that understanding.
As technologies have become more science-based and complex, it is increasingly difficult for those without specialist knowledge to fully understand and appreciate how these technologies work, how they arose and how they were developed.
Whilst the benefits of studying the history of technology as a factor in understanding social, economic and political history is more or less self-evident, the benefits of studying the fundamental underlying technical history is less so. For example, to what extent do historians need to understand the technical development of aviation in order to understand and appreciate the social impacts of air travel in the second half of the twentieth century?
The lecture will consider the value of studying detailed technical history and the ‘amateur and recreational’ status sometimes accorded to such study, together with other related topics, in the context of the Newcomen Society.