Deborah Fitzgerald

Department Head; Leverett Howell and William King Cutten Professor of the History of Technology (STS)


Deborah Fitzgerald is Professor of the History of Technology in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society (STS) at MIT. She received her B.A. from Iowa State University (History and English, 1978) and her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania (History and Sociology of Science, 1985). Prior to joining the MIT faculty in 1988, she was an Assistant Professor in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University. Fitzgerald served as the Kenan Sahin Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences from 2006-2015.

Fitzgerald’s research focuses on agriculture in 20th century America. She is interested in the role of federal, private, and corporate institutions supporting agriculture, in the character of rural life vis-a-vis growing modernization efforts; in the emergence of scientific, technological, and economic ways of knowing and changing the agricultural world; in the interface between nature and landscape, on the one hand, and agriculture on the other; in the reciprocal influence of American and non-American agricultural practices and ideas; and in the role of commodity overproduction in the emergence of the modern food industry. She is currently working on a book-length study of the industrialization of food during World War II.

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 University Press, 2003), which won the 2003 Theodore Saloutos Prize for best book of the year from the Agricultural History Society, of which Fitzgerald is a past president.

Fitzgerald is also the co-sponsor, with Professor Harriet Ritvo, of the MIT Seminar in Environmental and Agricultural History (formerly the Modern Times/Rural Places Seminar).

Recent Books


Every Farm a Factory: The Industrial Ideal in American Agriculture

Deborah Fitzgerald

During the early decades of the 20th century, agricultural practice in America was transformed from a pre-industrial to an industrial activity. In this study Deborah Fitzgerald argues that farms became modernised in the 1920s because they adopted not only new machinery but also the financial, cultural and ideological apparatus of industrialism.