OBITUARY: Melvin Kranzberg

The history of technology is a late-comer to the range of academic disciplines, and Melvin Kranzberg did more than anybody in the Western world to secure its acceptance. This achievement was based on three foundations: first, his enthusiam and skill as a teacher, which won him generations of admirers amongst students and colleagues; second, his devotion to the creation of a society to advance the study of the subject; and third, his tireless commitment to the support of causes involved in the history of technology, both at home in the United States and, most outstandingly, through his international affiliations.

Together with others, he formed the Society for the History of Technology (Shot) in 1958, with himself as founding editor of its quarterly journal, Technology and Culture. He held this post until 1984, and used it to develop a lively international forum for the discussion of all aspects of technological history.

In national affairs, Mel Kranzberg was an adviser to Nasa on aspects of the space programme, and for a time advised President Jimmy Carter on science and technology. Internationally, he was associated with the creation of Icohtec, the International Committee for the History of Technology. This was set up in 1968 at the International Congress for the History of Science and Technology which met that summer in Paris. It was a sensitive moment in international relationships, after the "Prague Spring" and the student riots in Paris itself, but it was an act of faith in the importance of maintaining contacts between scholars across the barriers of the Cold War. Most years in this period, members of Icohtec contrived to meet for a symposium in either East or West Europe. Kranzberg's never-failing enthusiasm, his patient diplomacy and his infectious laughter played an important part in this. He attended virtually every meeting of Icohtec, including the 22nd symposium which was held in Bath in the summer of 1994.

Kranzberg arguably gave too little attention to his own scholarly career. His own thoughts were mainly expressed in editorials and conference papers and have not, as yet, been made available in a substantial form. This is a pity, because he wrote with a pithy topicality about technology and society. Students on both sides of the Atlantic have cause to be grateful for the two-volume textbook which he edited with Carroll Pursell, Technology in Western Civilisation (1967). And many will recall the memorable, if somewhat gnomic, epigram which became known to his students as "Kranzberg's First Law": "Technology is neither good nor bad - nor is it neutral."

R. Angus Buchanan

Melvin Kranzberg, historian of technology: born St Louis, Missouri 22 November 1917; Calloway Professor of the History of Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology 1972-88; married lastly 1984 Louise Lester; died Atlanta, Georgia 6 December 1995.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003