Mara Mills and W. Patrick McCray are New CBI Research Fellows

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (2/29/24)—The Charles Babbage Institute is delighted to announce the addition of two new CBI Research Fellows, New York University (NYU) Associate Professor in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication Mara Mills and University of California, Santa Barbara Professor of History W. Patrick McCray.

Mara Mills, with degrees in biology, literature, education, and a Ph.D. in the History of Science from Harvard University, is a thought-leading scholar in disability studies and sound studies. Mills is the founding co-director of the NYU Center for Disability Studies and is a founding editor of the award-winning scholarly journal Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience.

Her most recent book, co-edited with Rebecca Sanchez, is Crip Authorship: Disability as Method (NYU Press, 2023). This wonderfully insightful volume of 35 essays brings together leading scholars, activists, and artists to examine how disability shapes authorship, cultural production, media, and aesthetics. 

A prolific author, Mills has published multiple books and more than 80 articles, essays, and reviews. Her work has been sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the IEEE, the Mellon Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies, among others. She has served on the Executive Council of the Society of the History of Technology and is actively involved in the History of Science Society, as well as other professional organizations, including in the history of medicine.

Early in her career she graciously participated in a workshop that CBI Senior Research Fellow William Aspray and I co-led at the University of Texas, Austin’s Information School. This resulted in an article on the history of hearing aids and semiconductor technology she published in a special issue we edited in IEEE Annals of the History of Computing made up of the revised papers from the event.

W. Patrick McCray is also among the foremost scholars within the Society for the History of Technology and the History of Science Society. He is the author/editor of seven books, all of which stand out for their creativity and insights, and span an incredible range from Venetian glassmaking, nanotechnology, and telescopes to satellites, and engineering and art.

With great interest in both art and technology, McCray’s 2020 book, Making Art Work: How Cold War Engineers and Artists Forged a New Creative Culture (MIT Press), is one of my favorite books on the history of technology published in recent years. In it, he explores collaborations and common ground between engineers and artists in the early decades of the Cold War, when artists such as Andy Warhol, Yvonne Rainer, and John Cage gained much attention, while talented engineers, who also participated in this new, impactful creative culture, tended to be more in the shadows.

A decade ago, McCray published the landmark work The Visioners: How a Group of Elite Scientists Pursued Space Colonies, Nanotechnologies, and a Limitless Future (Princeton University Press, 2013). This book won both the 2014 Watson, Helen, Miles, and Audrey Davis Prize of the History of Science Society and the Eugene E. Emme Award for Astronomical Literature.

McCray is currently completing a book manuscript for MIT Press called “README: A Bookish History of Computing from Electronic Brains to Everyday Machines,” which examines how computing technology becomes popular and how it is publicized. He is active in editing and is the co-editor (with Kate McDonald and Asif Siddiqi) of the Johns Hopkins University Press book series Studies in the History of Technology, a series publishing tremendous books under their leadership, and with a rich history prior in our field. He is a Fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society and has served as a “Faculty Expert” for the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland.

As a great fan of Mara and Patrick’s creative scholarship and leadership in the history of technology and the history of science, I am so delighted they have joined CBI as Research Fellows, so please join me in welcoming them as they continue to do amazing work.

Jeffrey R. Yost


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