Matthew Wisnioski

Associate Professor, STS

Blacksburg Campus

Email: mwisnios@vt.eduPhone: 540-231-2887
Office Hours: TBAOffice: 331 Lane Hall

Please visit Matt's personal website:

Matt works at the nexus of the history of science & technology, American history, engineering studies, and the values of design. His 2012 book Engineers for Change: Competing Visions of Technology in 1960s America  is the inaugural volume in the MIT Press Engineering Studies series. It is both a history of dominant contemporary assumptions about technology and a synthetic account of the US engineering profession in the postwar era. He also has written on György Kepes, the Center for Advanced Visual Studies, the origins of the MIT Media Lab, and the collaborative intersections of engineers and artists. He is at work on a book, tentatively titled “Every American an Innovator,” on the role of innovation expertise in the making of postwar technoscientific selves, funded by NSF Scholar's Award 1354121. In 2014-2015 he was a fellow of the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation.

Matt received his BS in Materials Science & Engineering from The Johns Hopkins University in 2000, his PhD in History from Princeton in 2005, and was a Mellon Fellow in the Modeling Interdisciplinary Inquiry Program at Washington University in St. Louis. He teaches graduate seminars in Design Cultures, Normative Visions of Technology, Main Themes in the History of Science, and an Introduction to STS as well as undergraduate classes in the history of technology, material culture studies, and Engineering Cultures. He advises PhD students on topics ranging from the history of "regulatory engineering" in the EPA to the cultural meaning of reading as medicine.

Matt also is a cofounder of the new Human Centered Design (HCD) Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program and a Senior Fellow of the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT). With the support of ICAT, he taught an experimental, studio-based graduate seminar on the "Origins of Innovation" that brought graduate students in STS together with those from design, engineering, and science disciplines; for which he received Virginia Tech's 2014 XCaliber Award. Students from that class created the online resource Lenses of Innovation at VT.

He recently co-organized with Eric Hintz of the Lemelson Center and Marie Stettler of Virginia Tech the workshop "Can Innovators be Made?" which was held on March 20-21, 2015 at Virginia Tech's Arlington Research Center and the National Museum of American History.

Curriculum vitae.

Publications in Science & Technology Studies


2012 Engineers for Change: Competing Visions of Technology in 1960s America (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press).

Selected Articles and Book Chapters

2015 " What's the Use? History and Engineering Education Research, Guest Editorial," Journal of Engineering Education, Vol. 104:3.

2015 "The Birth of Innovation," IEEE Spectrum, Vol. 52:2.

2014 "'Suppose the World Were Already Lost': Worst Case Design and the Engineering Imagination at Harvey Mudd College," Engineering Studies, Vol. 6.

2014 "Sandbox Infrastructure: Field Notes from the Arts Research Boom," ARPA Journal, Vol. 1:1.

2013 "Why MIT Institutionalized the Avant-Garde: Negotiating Aesthetic Virtue in the Postwar Defense Institute," Configurations, Vol. 21:1, pp.85-116.

2013 "Centerbeam: Art of the Environment" in A Second Modernism: MIT, Architecture and the 'Techno-Social' Moment, ed. Arindam Dutta (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press), pp. 189-226.

2013 Otto Piene and Matthew Wisnioski, "Art/Science/Technology" in A Second Modernism: MIT, Architecture and the 'Techno-Social' Moment, ed. Arindam Dutta (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press), pp. 775-798.

2009 "'Liberal Education Has Failed': Reading Like an Engineer in 1960s America," Technology and Culture, Vol. 50:4, pp.753-782.

2003 "'Inside the System': Engineers, Scientists, and the Boundaries of Social Protest in the Long 1960s," History and Technology, Vol. 19:4, pp. 313-333.

Selected Reviews

2015 "Inside the online world not indexed by search engines," Washington Post, June 26.

2015 "How Digital Technology is Destroying Your Mind," Washington Post, February 13.

2014 "The Innovators, on the creation of the digital revolution, by Walter Isaacson," Washington Post, October 3.

2013 "To Forgive Design, Henry Petroski," ISIS, Vol. 104:4, pp. 829-830.

2013 "Design Enigmas: SSK in the Service of Practice, review of David Bloor, Enigma of the Aerofoil," Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, Vol. 44:4, pp. 613-617.

2011 "Let's Be Fysiksists Again, review of David Kaiser, How the Hippies Saved Physics," Science, Vol. 332:6037, pp. 1504-1505.

Online Media and Video

2013 "Podcast for Engineers for Change" New Books in Science and Technology, and Society, February 26.

2013 "What Do Herbert Marcuse and Mark Zuckerberg have in common?" Los Angeles Times, February 20.

2013 "National Engineers Week: A Q&A with Matthew Wisnioski" The MIT Press Blog, February 20.

2013 "Engineers for Change," presentation for Virginia Tech's Visible Scholarship Initiative, January 29.

2012 "'Change or Die!': The History of the Innovator's Aphorism" The Atlantic, December 12.

2011 "Aesthetic Virtue in the Defense Institute," presentation for the Festival of Art, Science, and Technology in celebration of the 150th Anniversary of MIT, February 4.