Merritt Roe Smith

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


Recent Honors & Awards


A Levitan Teaching Award (HASTS/MIT)

Recent Articles


“Yankee Armorers and the Union War Machine,” in Astride Two Worlds: Technology and the American Civil War, ed. Barton C. Hacker (Washington: Smithsonian Scholarly Press, 2016), pp. 25-54.

Merritt Roe Smith received his B.A. from Georgetown University (History, 1963) and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University (History, 1971). Before coming to MIT in 1978, he taught at Ohio State University and the University of Pennsylvania. His book on the Harpers Ferry Armory received the 1977 Frederick Jackson Turner Award, the 1978 Pfizer Award, and nomination for the Pulitzer Prize in History. He has received numerous fellowships and recognitions, including a Regents Fellowship from the Smithsonian Institution, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Senior Fulbright Scholarship in Sweden, a Thomas Newcomen Fellowship at the Harvard Business School, and the Leonardo da Vinci medal from the Society for the History of Technology. Professor Smith is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and currently serves on the national advisory boards of the American Museum of Textile History, the Thomas Edison Papers Project at Rutgers University, American Precision Museum, and the acclaimed public television series, “The American Experience.”

In addition to his many publications in the history of technology, Professor Smith is co-author of Inventing America: A History of the United States (2nd ed., 2006). He co-authored “The Automobile in America: A Retrospective Technology Assessment” for the PoET Working Papers series (2007) and continues as co-principal investigator for the PoET NSF/IGERT grant at MIT. He also edits The Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology series at The Johns Hopkins University Press. He is currently working on a book about technology and technological change during the Civil War era. Smith and his wife, Bronwyn, are housemasters of Burton-Conner, an undergraduate residence on Memorial Drive.

Recent Books


Inventing America, Second Edition, Volume 1

Merritt Roe Smith

W. W. Norton presents Inventing America, a balanced new survey of American history by four outstanding historians. The text uses the theme of innovation—the impulse in American history to “make it new”—to integrate the political, economic, social, and cultural dimensions of the American story.


Does Technology Drive History? The Dilemma of Technological Determinism

Merritt Roe Smith

These thirteen essays explore a crucial historical question that has been notoriously hard to pin down: To what extent, and by what means, does a society’s technology determine its political, social, economic, and cultural forms?

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