Professor Johnson, who holds a joint appointment with the Department of Philosophy, regularly teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on the history of the physical sciences, engineering, and technology, modern Europe, and--for philosophy--engineering ethics. Her first book, Hitting the Brakes: Engineering Design and the Production of Knowledge (Duke University Press, 2009), looks at the ways engineers collectively produce new knowledge by way of a case study on the design Antilock Braking Systems (ABS) for passenger cars. With her colleague Carol E. Harrison, she edited National Identity: The Role of Science and Technology for the Osiris series, published in 2009 (University of Chicago Press). She works with science and engineering faculty at USC and elsewhere to consider the history and broad contexts of new technologies, from nanotechnologies to superconductors to computer simulations. She has been a Principal Investigator or co-Principal Investigator on ten National Science Foundation grants plus a Humboldt Foundation Trans-Coop Award. She has an active research group, including both graduate and undergraduate students, working on a variety of issues in the history of science & technology and science policy. She encourages potential graduate students from both the sciences/engineering and the humanities to contact her about graduate study in the history of science and technology at USC
1. I am currently finishing a book on the development of engineering practices in 19th century America, tentatively titled Engineering America. This book looks at the nascent community of pre-professional engineers in antebellum America and finds them playing two important roles: as builders of their own technical community working to mathematize engineering practices, and as important, but overlooked, contributors to political debates about American national identity. .
2. My next project is writing a book in collaboration with philosopher Johannes Lenhard of the University of Bielefeld. We try to understand the changing character of mathematics in science, particularly examining the development of computational methods that produce predictions. We argue that computer simulations are causing science to shift from a culture of explanation to a culture of prediction. The project has two threads: one historical, concerning the history of prediction in science and the other philosophical, focusing on the effects of widely accessible computer simulations and simulation packages (i.e., desktop computer based) on today's scientific practices.
I also have several smaller projects concerning nanotechnology, technology regulation, solid state electronics in automobiles, science policy, and am editing a collection of essays with James Rodger Fleming of Colby College titled Toxic Airs: Chemical and Environmental Histories of the Atmosphere. I have served as an associate editor of Technology and Culture, Engineering Studies, and on the editorial boards of Transfers, Osiris, and the University of Chicago's book series Synthesis. I have also been elected to the executive council of the Society for the History of Technology and the executive board of the Society for Philosophy and Technology.
Professor Johnson's c.v. is located here.