W. Bernard Carlson

Professor (1986)

Member of Committe on the History of Environment and Technology

Coordinator, Engineering Business Programs

Office Hours: Thurs. 12:30-2:00

Office: A220 Thornton Hall

Phone: (434) 924-6113

Email: wc4p (at) virginia.edu

Fields & Specialties

History of Technology; American Business History; Entrepreneurship; Social and Cognitive Theories of Innovation


A.B. Holy Cross College 1977
M.A. Univ. of Pennsylvania 1981
Ph.D. Univ. of Pennsylvania 1984


  • Ideal and Illusion: The Life and Inventions of Nikola Tesla (Princeton: Princeton University Press, forthcoming).
  • Technology in World History.  7 volumes.  (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).  General editor and author of 7 chapters.  Korean edition, 2009.
  • Innovation as a Social Process:  Elihu Thomson and the Rise of General Electric, 1870-1900.  (New York:  Cambridge University Press, 1991).  Paperback Edition, 2002.
  • The Nature of Power: Synthesizing the History of Technology and Environmental History."  Technology and Culture 52:246-59 (April 2011).  With Edmund P. Russell, James Allison, Thomas Finger, John K. Brown, and Brian Balogh.
  • "Revolution or Evolution?  The Role of Knowledge and Organization in the Establishment and Growth of R&D at Corning,” Management and Organizational History, Vol 4(1): 37–65 (2009).  With Stuart K. Sammis.
  • “Diversity and Progress: How Might We Picture Technology across Global Cultures?”  Comparative Technology Transfer and Society 5:128-55 (August 2007).
  • "Technology and America as a Consumer Society, 1870-1900" for The Gilded Age: Essays on the Origins of Modern America, 2 ed., ed. C. W. Calhoun. (Wilmington, Delaware: Scholarly Resources, 2007).
  • "Invention, History, and Culture," for Science, Technology, and Society, an encyclopedia edited by S. Restivo.  (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
  • "The Telephone as a Political Instrument: Gardiner Hubbard and the Political Construction of the Telephone, 1875-1880."  in M. Allen and G. Hecht, Eds., Technologies of Power: Essays in Honor of Thomas Parke Hughes and Agatha Chipley Hughes  (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001), 25-55.
  • "Electrical Inventions and Cultural Traumas:  The Telephone in America and Germany, 1860-1880," in K. Plitzner, Ed., Elektriztat in der Geisteschichte (Bassum, Austria: Verlag für Geschichte de Naturwissenschaften und der Technik, 1998), 143-54.
  • "Understanding Invention as a Cognitive Process:  The Case of Thomas Edison and Early Motion Pictures, 1888-1891."  Social Studies of Science 20:387-430 (August 1990). With Michael E. Gorman.



  • Scholar in Residence, Deutsches Museum, Munich, May-June 2010.
  • Sally Hacker Prize for Best Popular Book, Society for the History of Technology, 2008.
  • National Science Foundation, Science and Technology Studies Program, grant for "Rethinking Technology, Nature, and Society: A Research and Training Program," 2004-2007.  With John K. Brown and Edmund P. Russell.
  • Sloan Foundation grant for a biography of Nikola Tesla, 1997-2000.
  • Newcomen Fellow in Business and Economic History, Graduate School of Business Administration, Harvard University, 1988-1989.



  • Executive Secretary, Society for the History of Technology, 2009-11.
  • Co-Editor, MIT Press series on "Inside Technology:  New Social and Historical Approaches to Technology," with Wiebe Bijker and Trevor J. Pinch.  Since 1987.  Fifty books have been published.
  • Trustee, Newcomen Society of the United States, 1990-2009.
  • Trustee, Business History Conference, 1999-2001.

Current Research

The [Oxford] Handbook of the History of Technology.  Under contract to Oxford University Press.  Serving as general editor.

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904

tel: (434) 924-7147; fax: (434) 924-7891
office: M-F 8 am to 4:30 pm
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