Melvin Kranzberg (born St. Louis, Mo.) received his A.B. from Amherst College (1938), and his M.A. (1939) and Ph.D. (1942) in modern European history from Harvard University. When World War II commenced, Dr. Kranzberg went, with an Amherst professor, Charles W. Cole, to work at the Office of Price Administration in Washington, D. C. At that same time, he enlisted in the Signal Corps Reserve. Since he was regarded as "educable," he was sent for electronics training at Catholic University, and then to Johns Hopkins for a three-year course in electrical engineering that was crammed into sixteen weeks. Instead of receiving a commission, he was sent to Philco Radio Laboratories in Philadelphia for another three-month crash course, this one in radar.
By the end of his course of study, however, the Signal Corps no longer needed officers and he was put in the infantry. After basic training, he was assigned to the Army's Specialized Training Program. His language skills enabled him to engage in an intensive three-month study of Turkish. Since invasion of Turkey was not likely, he then entered a language program in German. This led to appointment in Military Intelligence, where he was charged with interrogating German POWs, often on the front lines. That assignment lasted from about September 1944 through the Battle of the Bulge, until the German surrender. He received three Battle Stars, a Combat Infantry Badge, and a Bronze Star. He was awarded honorary doctorates of letters (Litt. D.) by New Jersey Institute of Technology and Northern Michigan University, doctorates of engineering (D. Eng.) by Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Colorado School of Mines, and doctorates of humane letters (L.H.D.) by Denison University and Amherst College.
Dr. Kranzberg's major professional contribution has been the establishment of a new field of history: the history of technology. He was the principal founder of the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT), founding editor (1959-81) of its quarterly journal, Technology and Culture, and served as SHOT Secretary (1959-74) and President (1983-84). A cofounder of ICOHTEC (International Committee for the History of Technology, a Scientific Section of the International Union for the History Science [UNESCO], he served as its vice-president from its inception in 1968. When he retired from that post at ICOHTEC'S 17th International Symposium (Hamburg, 1989), he was elected honorary president for life. In 1979-1980 Dr. Kranzberg was national president of Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society (120,000 active members in 500 chapters and clubs). Over the years, he has been a Sigma Xi National Lecturer and has served on various committees of the honorary organization. He was Chairman (1966, 1979) of Section L (History and Philosophy of Science) of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and Chairman (1978-81) of the AAAS Committee on Science Engineering, and Public Policy. From 1977-1980, he chaired the Advisory Committees of the Policy Research and Analysis (PRA) and Science Resources Studies (SRS) Divisions of the National Science Foundation (NSF). An original member (1964) of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's History Advisory Committee (Chairman, 1966-71, 1984-87), he also served on NASA's National Advisory Council (1984-87). In 1989, Dr. Kranzberg was elected to the newly founded Board of the National Association for Science, Technology, and Society (NASTS), an "umbrella organization for educators, scientists, engineers, public policy analysts, public interest groups, media, and individuals interested in the impact of scientific and technological development on society." At its 1992 Annual Technological Literacy Conference, Kranzberg was honored by being the initial recipient of a NASTS Honorary Lifetime Membership.
Other activities include: Vice-President, AAAS (1966); Chairman (1957-58), Humanistic-Social Division, American Society for Engineering Education (ASEEO; Vice-President (1959), Society for French Historical Studies; Trustee (1979-), Charles Babbage Foundation; and Chairman (1972-73), U.S. National Committee of the International Union of the History and Philosophy of Science. He has served on the Technology Assessment Panel of the National Academy of Sciences and the NAS Committee on the Survey of Materials Science and Engineering, The National Research Council's Committee on the Education and Utilization of the Engineer, and various advisory committees of the National Academy of Engineering.
Kranzberg has been a member of the Editorial Advisory Boards of the following journals: Engineering Education; Science, Technology & Human Values; Knowledge in Society; History and Technology; and Research in Philosophy and Technology; and the "Inside Technology" book series of the MIT Press. In 1980, he coordinated the Course-by-Newspaper on "Energy and the Way We Live" with 400 newspapers and was awarded a $10,000 prize by the Academy for Educational Development. He was a TV commentator on the PBS "Connections" series and lectured throughout the world, including USIA tours to India, Southeast Asia, and Africa. He has written or edited: The Siege of Paris, 1870-1871 (1950; reprinted 1970); 1848: A Turning Point? (1959, 14 printings); the two-volume
Technology in Western Civilization (1967; Japanese, 1976; Spanish, 1980); Technology and Culture: an Anthology (1972; Arabic, 1976; Spanish 1980); By the Sweat of Thy Brow: Work in the Western World (1975 [an alternate selection of the Fortune Book Club]; Italian, 1976); Technological Innovation: A Critical Review of Current Knowledge (1978); Energy and the Way We Live (1980); Ethics in an Age of Pervasive Technology (1980); Bridge to the Future: A Centennial Celebration of the Brooklyn Bridge (1984); Technological Education/Technological Style (1986); and Innovation at the Crossroads Between Science and Technology (1989). He is also the author of over 150 articles in encyclopedias, learned journals, and scholarly collections on topics in European history, engineering education, history of technology, science-technology policy, and science-technology-society interactions.
Dr. Kranzberg taught at Harvard, Stevens Institute of Technology, Amherst College, and Case Western Reserve University, where he established the first graduate program in the history of technology at an American university. From 1972 to 1988, he was Callaway Professor of the History of Technology at Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). He is a member of the honorary societies Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, Epsilon Pi Tau, and Phi Kappa Phi. His awards include: Leonardo da Vinci Medal, Society for the History of Technology (1968); Apollo Achievement Award, NASA (1969); Special Research Day Citation, Case Western Reserve University (1970); Special Recognition Award, American Industrial Arts Association (1978); and the Roe Medal, American Society of Mechanical Engineers (1980). Dr. Kranzberg was one of 100 Americans presented the State of Israel's Jabotinsky Centennial Medal (1980) for eminence in the sciences and letters, and was elected (1985) an Honorary Foreign Member of the Czechoslovak Society for the History of Science and Technology, Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences. In 1991, the Liberal Education Division of the American Society for Engineering Education presented him its Olmsted Award for "outstanding contributions to engineering education by bringing the humanities and technology together for the mutual benefit of both." In November 1991, the Society for Social Studies of Science (SSSS) and the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) presented him the Bernal Award for "outstanding contributions to the social studies of science." At its 1994 meeting in Zaragoza, Spain, the prestigious International Academy of the History of Science elected Dr. Kranzberg to its membership.
The January-September 1976 issue (Vol. 12, Nos. 1-3) of Lex et Scientia (The International Journal of Law and Science) was devoted to Kranzberg's 1975 Mellon Lectures at Lehigh University, and the French Centre de Recherche sur la Culture Technique dedicated its June 1983 (No. 10) issue of Culture Technique to him. In 1985 The Society for the History of Technology and the MIT Press co-published John M. Staudenmaier's, Technology's Storytellers: Reweaving the Human Fabric as a "tribute" to him, and Lehigh University Press published (1989) Stephen H. Cutcliffe and Robert C. Post's, In Context; History and the History of Technology — Essays in Honor of Melvin Kranzbergr containing articles by major historians of technology. When Dr. Kranzberg became emeritus in June 1988, the Georgia Tech Foundation established the Melvin Kranzberg Professorship in the History of Technology. The first occupant of this chair was Dr. Bruce Sinclair, former head of the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto and a former student of Dr. Kranzberg. Dr. Melvin Kranzberg married tLouise Lester Clark.