Jennifer Alexander

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Jennifer Alexander

Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering


Mechanical Engineering
Room 239
111 Church Street SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455


History of Science and Technology Program

Ph.D. 1996, History, University of Washington
M.A. 1990, History, University of Wyoming
B.S. 1988, History, University of Wyoming 


I am a historian of modern technology, with specialization in technology and religion; industrial culture; and engineering, ethics, and society. I hold an M.A. in modern German history, and a PhD in history of technology, emphasizing modern Europe, from the University of Washington (Seattle). Before coming to Minnesota I held a research fellowship at CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique), Paris. My early articles and first book, The Mantra of Efficiency, focused on foundational concepts of industry and industrial culture; the translation of technological values into social values; the mathematics of machine performance; and the developing cultural power of a particular technological value: efficiency. Mantra of Efficiency was awarded the Edelstein Prize by the Society for the History of Technology, as outstanding book published in the preceding three years. 

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

Research Interests
  • Technology
  • Religion



Honors and Awards

Sidney M. Edelstein Prize, Society for the History of Technology, outstanding book published in the preceding three years, Mantra of Efficiency (2010).


The Mantra of Efficiency: From Waterwheel to Social Control (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008).

Selected Publications
  • “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.