Jennifer S. Light

Professor of Science, Technology, and Society (STS), Director of the Program in Science, Technology, and Society, Professor of Urban Studies and Planning

E51-173 617-452-2390

Jennifer S. Light is Professor of Science, Technology and Society and Professor of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT. Her research investigates the intersection of science, technology and urban politics in US history, with special attention to the applications of scientific and technical ideas and innovations in programs of social reform and social control.

Light is the author of two books on the sociology of scientific urban knowledge: The Nature of Cities: Ecological Visions and the American Urban Professions, 1920-1960 (2009, 2014) and From Warfare to Welfare: Defense Intellectuals and Urban Problems in Cold War America (2003, 2005). Together, the books explain the dominance of specific scientific models for understanding and managing cities during the twentieth century – and what difference such conceptualizations of city problems and solutions made in how US history unfolded. She is also editor, with Danielle Allen, of From Voice to Influence: Understanding Citizenship in the Digital Age (2015), and author of articles and essays appearing in New Media and Society; Technology and CultureJournal of Urban HistoryJournal of the American Planning Association; and other venues.

Light holds degrees from Harvard University and the University of Cambridge. She has been a member of the Institute for Advanced Study and the Derek Brewer Visiting Fellow at Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge. Her work has been supported by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and honored with the Catherine Bauer Wurster Prize from the Society for American City and Regional Planning History and an honorary doctorate from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Light serves on the editorial boards IEEE Annals of the History of Computing;Information and Culture; Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences; and Journal of Urban History. Professor Light was previously on the faculty of the School of Communication and the Departments of History and Sociology at Northwestern University.

Courses taught:

Youth Political Participation 

Introduction to the History of Technology

Histories of Communication, Information, and Computing Technologies


Recent Books


From Voice to Influence: Understanding Citizenship in a Digital Age

Jennifer S. Light

In From Voice to Influence, Danielle Allen and Jennifer Light bring together a stellar group of political and social theorists, social scientists, and media analysts to explore the transformation of political action in a digital age.


The Nature of Cities: Ecological Visions and the American Urban Professions, 1920-1960

Jennifer S. Light

The Nature of Cities offers a new understanding of the history of urban renewal in the United States in the rise and fall of the American conservation movement. The book brings together environmental and urban history to reveal how, over four decades, this ecological vision shaped the development of cities around the nation.

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