W. Bernard Carlson


(434) 924-6113
A220 Thornton Hall
Office Hours: Thurs. 12:30-2:00 (434) 924-4306 (434) 924-4306

Field & 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


Member of Committe on the History of Environment and Technology

Coordinator, Engineering Business Programs


  • 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.


  • 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.


Current Research

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

Awards & Honors

  • 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.