Jennifer Alexander

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Jennifer Alexander

Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering


Shepherd Labs
Room 577
100 Union St SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455


History of Science and Technology Program

Ph.D. 1996, Department of History, University of Washington 
M.A. 1990, Department of History, University of Wyoming 
B.S. 1987, Department of History, University of Wyoming

Professional Background

Director of Graduate Studies, Program in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, University of Minnesota, 2017-present
Associate Professor, 
University of Minnesota, 
Mechanical Engineering, 2007 - present
Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota, Mechanical Engineering, 1999-2007

Scientific & Professional Societies
American Society of Mechanical Engineers
History of Science Society
Society for the History of Technology
Jennifer Alexander is a historian of technology, specializing in modern industrial culture, technology and religion, and the history of mechanical technologies. Her work pioneers the concept of technological orthodoxies: the development of creeds and doctrines that enforce conformity in how technologies are understood and used.

History of Science, Technology, and Medicine (HSTM) - 585 Shepherd Lab

Research Interests
  • Technology & modernity
  • Modern Europe
  • Technology & religion
  • History of engineering
  • History of mechanisms and mechanics
Currently Teaching Courses
HSCI 3714: Stone Tools to Steam Engines: Technology and History to 1750
HSCI 3715: History of Modern Technology: Waterwheels to the Web
CEGE 3103:Engineering Ethics and Professional Practice
Honors and Awards
  • 2010 Sidney M. Edelstein Prize 2010, Society for the History of Technology. Mantra of Efficiency 
  • The Mantra of Efficiency: From Waterwheel to Social Control (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008).
Selected Publications
  • Bloomsbury Cultural History of Technology, 6 volumes (London: Bloomsbury, expected 2024). Initiating Editor and Co-General Editor, full editorial team of 12 scholars and approximately 60 chapter authors.
  • Technology and Religion, special issue of History and Technology (September 2020), co-editor
  • “A Brief History of Engineering”, in Diane P. Michelfelder and Neelke Doorn, eds., The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Engineering (New York and London: Routledge, 2021), 25-37.
  • “An engineering career as industrial mission: Jack Keiser in post-war Britain,” History and Technology 36 (2020): 263-291. 
  • “Introduction: The entanglement of technology and religion,” History and Technology 36 (2020): 165-186.
  • “The Varieties of Efficiency,” Introduction to Mantra of Efficiency, translated and reprinted in Anthony Huberman et al, eds. Other Mechanisms (Vienna, Austria: Secessions Gallery, 2018), 64-80.
  • “Rationalization comes to Rome:  Fascism and the Third International Congress on the Scientific Management of Labor, Rome, 1927” in Evert Peeters, ed., Between Autonomy and Engagement:  Performances of Scientific Expertise, 1860-1960 (London:  Pickering & Chatto, Series History and Philosophy of Technoscience, 2015):  147-160.  
  • “Radically religious:  Ecumenical Roots of the Critique of Technological Society,” in Helena Jerónimo, José Luís Garcia, Carl Mitcham, eds., Jacques Ellul and the Technological Society in the Twenty-First Century (Dordrecht, Heidelberg, New York, London:  Springer Verlag, 2013):  191-203.  
  • “Thinking again about science in technology,” Isis 103 (2012):  518-26. 
  • “The power to give credit and blame,” History and Technology 28 (2012):  83-92. 
  • “The Concept of Efficiency:  An Historical Analysis,” in Anthony Meijers, ed., Handbook of the Philosophy of Science, v. 8:  Philosophy of Technology and Engineering Sciences (Elsevier, 2009):   1007-1030.
  • “Efficiencies of balance:  Technical efficiency, popular efficiency, and arbitrary standards in the early progressive era US.” Social Studies of Science 38 (2008):  323-349.  
  • “An efficiency of scarcity:  using food to increase the productivity of Soviet prisoners of war in the coal mines of the Third Reich,” History and Technology 22 (2006):  391-406.  
  • “Efficiency and pathology:  mechanical discipline and efficient worker seating in Germany, 1929-1932,” Technology and Culture 47 (2006):  286-310.  
  • “The line between potential and working machines:  César Nicolas Leblanc and patent engravings, 1811-1835,” History and Technology 15 (1999):  175-212.  
  • “Perfect Demobilization,” in Body Montage: Cultures of Corporeal Dis/Assembling, 1900-1933, Thomas Schlich and Cornelius Borck, eds. (Fordham University Press, project paused). 

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