I am a historian of modern technology in Europe (especially Germany and Belgium) and the United States with special research interests in the history of science-related technology and the economic history of technology and science. My current book project, The Long Shadow of Kodak: Corporate Knowledge Empires and the Internationalization of Science, explores the consequences of the twentieth-century rise to dominance of industrial corporations over entire fields of scientific and technological knowledge production in different world regions. This research concentrates on the photochemical industry, particularly on Eastman Kodak and its main global competitors, and on the influence of these firms on the discipline of photographic science and technology, including its development in academic and government settings. I pay special attention to the internationalization of research and development activities in this field of study, and examine those internationalization patterns in relation to the corporate and military secrecy that affected the production and dissemination of much photographic knowledge.
My other ongoing research interests include the ethics of commercially oriented science and the forms and amounts of resistance that new technologies have generated historically. I have, for instance, recently started a project on the history of advertising in science and engineering, the initial findings of which are presented in a forthcoming journal article in History of Science.
Much of my earlier work has similarly dealt with opportunities and tensions generated by the real or perceived economic potential of technological and scientific knowledge, especially in the field of chemistry. My first book, Beyond Bakelite: Leo H. Baekeland (1863-1944) and the Business of Science and Invention (MIT Press, March 2020), adopts a transatlantic perspective, centered on issues of intellectual property and scientific entrepreneurship, to interpret the transformation of science-industry connections and interdependencies at the time of the second industrial revolution. It demonstrates how Bakelite inventor Leo Baekeland’s gradually acquired skill in crossing boundaries between scientific and economic spheres, with the aim of securing the highest possible level of intellectual property, contributed to his status as “father of plastics.” The expansion and transformation of the science-industry nexus, moreover, also affected the careers and legacies of many of Baekeland’s contemporaries. Finally, the themes of science commercialization and scientific entrepreneurship are also central to two special journal issues that I recently co-edited, “Commercializing Science: Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Academic Scientists as Consultants, Patentees, and Entrepreneurs” (History and Technology, 2017) and “Academic Entrepreneurship and Institutional Change in Historical Perspective” (Management and Organizational History, 2017). Management and Organizational History published an interdisciplinary Forum dedicated to these issues in the fall of 2018.
I hold an M.A. in history from the University of Leuven (2007) and a Ph.D. in history from Ghent University (2013). Before joining Johns Hopkins in the summer of 2015, I was a postdoctoral research fellow at the German Historical Institute-Washington (2013) and at Ghent University (2013-15). My work has also been supported by the Smithsonian Institution (National Museum of American History and Lemelson Center), the Science History Institute, and the Hagley Museum and Library.