Steven A. Walton

Steven A. Walton
"I find it astonishing that any man can regard fine machinery without admiration."
—John William Stone (in Stones Fall, by Iain Pears)

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Assistant Professor of History

  • Ph.D., University of Toronto, 1999
  • M.A., University of Toronto, 1994
  • M.S., California Inst. of Technology, 1992
  • B.S., Cornell University, 1991

Biography

I began my career as a mechanical engineer and then turned to the history of engineering through the history of science and technology. I am principally interested in the intersection of technology, its users, and the technical knowledge that they claim about it. Much of my work, though chronologically diverse, centers on military topics from arms and armor to artillery and the use of scientific instrumentation in war. My teaching focuses on the role of science and technology in the world and I teach on the history and philosophy of technology and science, as well as general courses in European history and military history.

I am currently at work on a number of projects:

  • a book-length study on he transition from castle to fortress in the British Isles in the mid-16th century.
    • This began as a study of Jaccopo Aconcio and his 1540s fortification treatise (which I found and edited, btu then was subsequently scooped by an Italian team who also found it; oh well, it made me make this a more analytical work), but now looks at a series of fortifications and writings on fortifications from the 1520s to 1570s. The argument is that the codification of the trace italienne fortification, is not quite so straightforward nor as 'scientific' as it is usually taken to be.  Aconcio's positions his treatise as an example of Renaissance method, providing a clue to the position of this new knowledge within English society.
  • numerous studies related to American ordnance and the West Point Foundry
    • a paper on the earliest U.S. cannon foundries
    • a paper on the question of a national foundry in the US throughout the 19th century.
    • a paper on the art collection of Gouverneur Kemble
  • I am also helping edit a number of projects
    • the diaries of Thomas Kelah Wharton during his early career (Ohio 1830-32, New York 1832-35, and a trip from New Orleans to Boston in 1853)
    • an edited volume on Lynn White Jr,'s Medieval Technology and Social Change at 50
    • I also helped get the new journal Vulcan: the International Journal for the Social History of Military Technology up and running, and hope to return to its editorial board after tenure.

Areas of Expertise

  • history of technology
  • history of science
  • artillery, fortification, ordnance
  • history of engineering
  • military history
  • Early Modern European history

Recent Publications

  • Steven A. Walton and Thomas E. Boothby. 2014. “What is Straight Cannot Fall: Medieval Architectural Statics in Theory and Practice,” History of Science [forthcoming].
  • Steven A. Walton. [2014] “Testing the Revolution in a Civil War: Developments in Heavy Artillery, 1830-1860,” in Barton C. Hacker (ed.), Astride Two Ages: Technology in the American Civil War (Smithsonian Institution Press), forthcoming.
  • Steven A. Walton. 2013. " 'My Works will be the Best in America': Peter Townsend's Cannon Foundry, 1815-25, 1815-25." New York State Museum Record, forthcoming.
  • Steven A. Walton. 2009 [2012]. "Founding a Foundry: the Diary of the Setting-Out of the West Point Foundry." Industrial Archaeology: Theme Issue: West Point Foundry 35.1/2: 25-38. Read More
  • Steven A. Walton. 2010. “State Building through Building for the State: domestic and foreign expertise in Tudor fortifications.” In Expertise and the Early Modern State, edited by Eric Ash, Osiris 25 (2010): 66-84. Read More

Recent Funding

  • MTU Research Excellence Fund: “Discerning the Picturesque and the Industrial: Hudson River Social Networks in the Diaries of Ellen Kemble, 1845-1905” 2013-14
  • British Academy Small Research Grant [with Glenn Foard], “Origins of Firepower: Characterising the earliest surviving small field artillery and hand guns," July 2010-June 2012
  • Leverhulme Visiting Professor, University of Leeds, UK, July-Dec. 2009

Presentations

  • Commentary on “Crossing Boundaries: Vernacular Science in the Late Medieval and Early Modern Worlds,” History of Science Society, Boston, MA, 21-24 Nov. 2013 (Organizer: Ken Mondschein).
  • “Geometry, Method, and the Rise of Trace Italienne Fortification in the Sixteenth Century,” ICOHTEC 22-28 July 2013, Manchester UK (Organizer: Bart C. Hacker).
  • “The Captain and the Professor: Inventing the Parrott Gun before the Civil War,” Astride Two Ages: Technology and the Civil War, Smithsonian Institution, November 2012.
  • “Dirty Ores and Ingenious Mechanics: The Origins of American Ore Washing Machinery,” Society for Industrial Archaeology, 41st Annual Conference, Cincinnati, OH, 1-4 June 2012 (Organizer: Justin Spivey)
  • “Determined Disjunction: Lynn White's Medieval Technology & Social Change then and now,” 47th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI, 10-13 May 2012 [organizer: Steven A. Walton].
  • “Rise of the Machines: Early-Modern Technology and the Making of the Modern World,” History of Technology Speaker Series, York College of Pennsylvania, York, PA, 16 Nov. 2011 (Invited; Organizer: Ilana Krug).
  • “The Origins of Firepower: Combining evidence from battlefield and museum,” Interpreting Battlefield Finds: Making the Most of Museums, Royal Armouries Conference in association with The Battlefields Trust, Leeds, UK, 11 June, 2011 [with Glenn Foard] (Organizer: Graeme Rimer).

Teaching Experience

  • SS3505 - Military History of the United States
  • SS3550 - Europe to 1650
  • SS3551 - Europe since 1650
  • SS3581 - History of Science
  • SS5500 - IA Proseminar: History of Technology (grad)
  • SS5503 - IA Proseminar: Material Culture Studies (grad)