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W. Patrick McCray

Department Fields


My personal (non-UC) web page
Also home of my Leaping Robot blog.

Social Media
If you're into this sort of thing, you can find me on Twitter (@LeapingRobot).

Machines, People, and Politics
Research Focus Group at UCSB that looks at a broad range of "technology and society" issues, past and present.

UCSB's Global and International Studies
I have an affiliate appointment with this program...

Visioneers and Innovation
November 2012 piece for Forbes.com

UCSB's Media Arts and Technology Graduate Program
...as well as this program.

The Pace of Scientific Discoveries
January 2013 radio piece with NPR's Morning Edition

Technologists' Siren Song
March 2014 op-ed for Chronicle of Higher Education

Current Graduate Students

Modern Science and Technology

Ph.D., University of Arizona, 1996

Office: HSSB 3251
Hours: On Leave 2015-16
Phone: (805) 893-2665   

I study and teach about modern technology and science. Another view of my work can be found at: www.patrickmccray.com. (more...)

My Research Interests

  • My general research program addresses the histories of modern technology and science from the 1930s to the present. These include:
  • Social histories of science and technology during the Cold War; I tend to focus on the physical sciences (esp. astronomy, physics, & materials science) and their relation with technology and instrumentation.
  • The ways in which technology and science intersect with innovation, politics, art, and popular culture.
  • The emergence, development, and intersection of technological communities.

Current Projects

  • I have several new projects underway. One subject I'm looking at is how astronomers' view of the night sky changed from an era of photographic plates to one mediated by digital technologies.
  • Another topic I'm exploring is the emergence of the "DNA nanotechnology" community; the focus is how scientists took this iconic molecule and transformed it from a "blueprint" to "bricks" they could use to build things on the nanoscale.
  • Finally, for a new book project, I'm excavating various art-technology collaborations between artists, engineers, and scientists during the 1960s-90s with the focus being the perspective & experience of engineers and scientists.

Selected Books and Articles

Undergraduate and Graduate Courses I Offer

  • History 20 - Science and the Modern World
    Lower-division survey of history of modern science
  • History 105A, 105B and 105C - The Atomic Age; The Space Age; The Information Age
    Sequence of upper-division undergraduate courses on history of nuclear weapons and nuclear power; space exploration; and the social history of computers and computerization. I typically teach one of these a year.
  • History 105CW - Science, Technology, and the State in the Cold War
    Upper-division course examines relation between knowledge producers and the state during the global Cold War
  • History 105P or 105Q - Proseminar or Readings Course
    Upper-division undergraduate readings/research course; currently being taught as Nuclear War in History, Memory, and Film.
  • History 109T - Technology and Modern America
    Surveys social history of technology in American life with attention given to 19th and 20th centuries.
  • History 109S - Science and Modern America
    Course examines the social history of science in American society, politics, and religion in the US.
  • History 200HS, 201HS, 277 A/B - Graduate Readings or Research Seminars
    Offered once or twice yearly, this is a graduate-level course. Topics vary but recent examples include: Studying Emerging (Nano)Technologies; Scientists during the Cold War; Computing Histories; Nuclear Histories; and Technology in U.S. History.

Recent Awards, Grants, and Other Nice Things

History of Science and Technology Links