John Krige, Kranzberg Professor in the School of History and Sociology and USG Regents Professor, retires August 1, 2020. He has been named emeritus professor.
Krige is a preeminent scholar, beloved teacher, and dedicated contributor in service to his profession, to Georgia Tech, the Ivan Allen College and the School of History and Sociology (HSOC).
“John Krige has for decades been one of the leading scholars in the history of science and technology, ranking among the top active scholars in the world in this field,” said HSOC Chair Eric Schatzberg. “He was one of the first historians of science and technology to bring a sophisticated approach to the period after World War II. He played a key role in making the history of Cold War science into a thriving field. And he is the world's leading scholar in the transnational history of twentieth-century science and technology.”
Krige has a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Pretoria (South Africa) and a Ph.D. in the history and philosophy of science from the University of Sussex (Brighton, U.K.). He came to Georgia Tech in 2000 as the Kranzberg Professor, which is named for former Georgia Tech professor Melvin Kranzberg who was the principal founder of the history of technology as an academic field.
He has authored or edited some 24 books and special journal issues, 28 peer-reviewed articles, and 40 book chapters. He also contribute to public discourse with 35 articles published in the popular press. Journalists seek his opinion regularly, and he has appeared in several documentaries about his areas of expertise. He has received numerous academic honors, most recently the Francis Bacon Award for the History of Science and Technology from the California Institute of Technology. He was selected as a Regents Professor for the University System of Georgia in 2019.
In addition to his scholarly pursuits, Krige is “a great teacher,” according to HSOC Chair Eric Schatzberg. “He is the cornerstone of the graduate program in the School of History and Technology attracting graduate students from around the world. He is also a popular undergraduate teacher, enticing Georgia Tech students into courses such as "History of Rocketry.” He has taught repeatedly in Georgia Tech's study abroad programs.
At Georgia Tech, Krige has been a member or chair of almost 20 different committees. At the Institute level, he served on the Institute RPT committee and the faculty senate, among others. Most importantly for HSOC, he spent six years as director of Graduate Studies, significantly strengthening the program. He also served on five faculty search committees, chairing one of them.
Professionally, he served a two-year term as president of the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT), the largest organization for this field in the world. Drawing on his extensive international connections, Krige helped transform SHOT into a truly international organization.
Studying “Big Science”
Krige began studying the origins of “big science” in the 1980s focusing his research on the development of CERN, the European center for nuclear research in Geneva. CERN is the largest research center for particle physics in the world. Krige's three volumes on the history of CERN — two as co-author and one as editor — are the definitive history of that organization, said Schatzberg. He used this early research to become one of the leading experts on post-WWII big science, of which CERN is a leading exemplar. In detailed empirical studies, Krige explored how science, technology, politics, and finance intertwined in these massive establishments for basic research.
“Krige's work on CERN demonstrates his incredible intellectual breadth, which includes a sophisticated understanding of the nature of scientific change, theories of high-energy physics, the process of engineering design and development, and international politics during the Cold War,” said Schatzberg.
In the early 1990s, Krige's research turned towards space when he became head of a large research project on the history of the European Space Agency (ESA). This position led to another set of books, articles, reports, and books chapters. As with his work on CERN, Krige produced the first serious scholarly history of the ESA.
Also during the 1990s, Krige started on the path the made him the leading scholar of the history of international relations in science and technology. Building on his previous work on CERN and ESA, Krige published extensively on transnational scientific and technical collaboration after WWII. He extended this line of research to studies of nuclear nonproliferation, with a particular focus on the gas centrifuge, the technology at the heart of the present-day crisis in nuclear proliferation.
More recently, Krige has launched a major research project on restrictions to the international flow of science and technology from the Cold War until the present. In this ongoing work, he shows how central categories of postwar science, such as the distinction between basic and applied research, have been shaped by conflicts between the academic scientists and the national security state. Krige also examines how the U.S. government has tried to limit the flow of scientific information since the end of the Cold War. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the U.S. national security state has increasingly restricted the free exchange of university research. Such developments, Krige notes, have troubling implications for scientific freedom.
Schatzberg adds that Krige is not only a scholar but also a public intellectual. His research deals with historical topics of direct relevance to present-day science and technology policy. In 2017, he was interviewed four times by media in the United States, Germany, Italy, and France. Most recently, he co-authored an op-ed in the business magazine Fortune on the intensifying conflict with China over leadership in high technology. In this article, he argued that recent attempts to deny China access to American science and technology are nothing new. Instead, these restrictions follow the same policies that the U.S. government employed in the past in a vain attempt to stem first Soviet, and then Japanese, access to American technology.
As Krige's work demonstrates, history is not just about the past, said Schatzberg.
“Historical research involves painstaking empirical work, especially the areas that Krige studies, the recent history of government-sponsored science and technology. Historians typically publish far less than social and natural scientists. Krige does not follow this pattern. In each of four separate research areas, Krige has published as much as most historians do in their entire careers.”
Read more about Dr. Krige’s scholarship and publications.
The School of History and Sociology is a unit of the Georgia Tech Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.