Newsletter of the Mercurians, in the Society for the History of Technology
Volume 11, No. 1, November 1998
Misreading the Supreme Court: A Puzzling Chapter in the History of Radio
Access Denied: The Beginning and End of the Information Society
Robert Arns Awarded IEEE Prize
The IEEE Life Members' Prize in Electrical History was established by the IEEE Life Members, who fund the prize, and is administered by the Society for the History of Technology. The prize recognizes the best paper in electrical history published during the previous year. Electrotechnology encompasses power, electronics, telecommunications, and computer science. The 1998 Prize is awarded to Robert G. Arns for "The High-Vacuum X-Ray Tube: Technological Change in Social Context," published in Technology and Culture 38 (October 1997): 852-890.
In his well-researched article on "The High-Vacuum X-Ray Tube: Technological Change in Social Context," Robert G. Arns traces the device from its origins as a temperamental laboratory gadget in the 1890s to its stabilization as a viable tool of medical diagnostics following World War I. Patents focus attention on two key inventors, so Arns skillfully displays how J. E. Lillieneld in Berlin worked within a "technological frame" of electrical discharge that differed dramatically from the vacuum frame of W. D. Coolidge at the General Electric Research Laboratory in the United States. More impressively, Arns shows how gas tube manufacturers, physicists, physicians, and electrotherapists all shaped the device, to grapple with war injuries and changes in medical practice in the United States and Europe. This case study is a superb exploration of the social shaping of engineering thought.
(Reprinted from the 1998 SHOT Awards Banquet booklet.)