University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota: Department of Mechanical Engineering

Jennifer Alexander

Associate Professor

Office: 325D Mechanical Engineering
Phone: 612-626-7309


Ph.D. 1996, History, University of Washington
M.A. 1990, B.S. 1988, History, University of Wyoming


I am a historian of modern technology, with specialization in technology and religion; industrial culture; and engineering, ethics, and society. I hold an M.A. in modern German history, and a PhD in history of technology, emphasizing modern Europe, from the University of Washington (Seattle). Before coming to Minnesota I held a research fellowship at CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique), Paris. My early articles and first book, The Mantra of Efficiency, focused on foundational concepts of industry and industrial culture; the translation of technological values into social values; the mathematics of machine performance; and the developing cultural power of a particular technological value: efficiency. Mantra of Efficiency was awarded the Edelstein Prize by the Society for the History of Technology, as outstanding book published in the preceding three years. My current research focuses on technology and religion. I am at work on a book manuscript analyzing the international religious critique of technology that developed following WWII. Methodologically, I ask how religious and theological interpretations of technology have changed over time; how, over time, technologies and engineering have extended their reach into the human world through a developing technological orthodoxy; and how these changes have affected each other. In particular, my research seeks to understand the widespread mobilizing of religious critique of technology in the post-war world. I teach courses in history of technology, engineering ethics, theories of technological change, and religion and technology.


Sidney M. Edelstein Prize, Society for the History of Technology, outstanding book published in the preceding three years, Mantra of Efficiency (2010).

Undergraduate Teaching

HSci 3421, Ethics in Engineering
HSci 3401, Ethics in Science and Technology
HSem 3530, Honors Seminar, From Golem to Robot to Cyborg: Artificial People in History
HSci 1714/3714, Stone Tools to the Steam Engine
HSci 1715/3715, Waterwheels to the Web

Graduate Seminars:

Theories of Technological Change preliminary syllabus (pdf)
"World-Building: From Industry to the Digital to the Anthropocene" syllabus (pdf)
"Science, Technology, Religion syllabus (pdf)
The Iron Maiden: Technology, Coercion, and the Body syllabus (pdf)
Industrial Revolutions to 1850 syllabus (pdf)