Thursday, July 26, 2012

Poe, Leidy, Morton, and Some Skeletons

Now that's a picture:
Edgar Allan Poe, Joseph Leidy, and Samuel George Morton at Philadelphia's Academy of Natural Sciences
Photo from A Glorious Enterprise: The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia and the Making of American ScienceVia.

Also, did you know that "diddling" can be considered an exact science?  (This and other interesting tid-bits on Poe and early American science appear in Maurice Lee's recent Uncertain Chances.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Touring The Idea Factory....or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Bell Labs

A Special Guest Post from Ben Gross, Research Fellow, Center for Contemporary History and Policy, at the Chemical Heritage Foundation (Thanks Ben!)

First off, I would like to thank Dan and the other members of the AmericanScience community for offering a forum to discuss a subject near and dear to my heart: the history of corporate science. Specifically, I would like to take a moment to reflect upon the significance of this place:

Bell Labs, courtesy of Wikipedia
Behold, Bell Labs! Located in Murray Hill, New Jersey, during the quarter century after World War II, this facility rose above all others to become synonymous with American innovation. Although a relative newcomer compared to research organizations at General Electric or Du Pont, the technologies developed within its walls—most notably, the transistor—prompted Fortune magazine to identify it in 1958 as “the world’s greatest industrial laboratory.” Further achievements over the coming decades, such as the launch of the first commercial telecommunications satellite (Happy 50th birthday, Telstar!) and pioneering work on solar panels, lasers, charge-coupled devices, and mobile telephony reinforced the Labs’ reputation.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Facebook and Conspicuous Affection

A little over 110 years ago Thorstein Veblen published The Theory of the Leisure Class, in which he spelled out his now famous and well-known idea of "conspicuous consumption." As Veblen argued, people conspicuously consume, buying silver wear and other luxury goods when cheaper stand-ins would do, because they desire to flag their social status.

Since the publication of Veblen's book, people have invented many and multifarious ways of being noticed.

I have recently been thinking a great deal about the technological dimensions of self-presentation. Let's call them technologies of conspicuous affection.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Shotgunning, Inc.

More thoughts on beer technologies! These should go down just as smoothly as my post on canning craft beer (written up more fully here). I'll focus on MillerCoors, one of the industry's biggest packaging innovators, and in particular on one of their best-selling beers, Miller Lite

Look at that pour!

The fact that taste isn't the most interesting thing about Miller Lite (as the company itself has basically suggested*) is, I'd argue, not unrelated to the fact that the brand has been on the leading edge of a packaging revolution for the last half-decade. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Brooke Hindle on Early American Science

This retrospective look (from the 1980s, it seems, by Brooke Hindle) at the mid-twentieth-century origins of the history of science in early America deserves a quick read. The piece covers quite a bit of ground (including history of technology and material culture), but I found most interesting its discussion of the influence on the history of science of the tide toward "social and intellectual history," alongside the rise of institutions that I would affiliate with the American studies movement like the [now Omohundro] Institute of Early American History and Culture.

On the history of American studies generally, my first stop for an actor's account is still Leo Marx's 2004 essay, "Believing in America."