skip to searchskip to content
banner
Thomas Parke Hughes papers
print eadcite thisAsk Hagley
Thomas Parke Hughes papers

Accession 2259

Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library


PO Box 3630
Wilmington, Delaware, 19807
302-658-2400
research@hagley.org

Finding aid prepared by Christopher T. Baer in 2014., February 19, 2014

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit 2014-02-26T12:21-0500

Finding aid prepared using best local practices and Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Cite items for this collection in the following format:
[Description and dates], Box/folder number, Thomas Parke Hughes papers (Accession 2259), Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, DE 19807

icon

Descriptive Summary

Title: Thomas Parke Hughes papers
Dates: 1912-1984
Accession Number: 2259
Creator: Hughes, Thomas Parke
Extent: 18 linear feet
Language of Material: German, French, Russian and Swedish
Repository: Hagley Museum and Library: Manuscripts and Archives Department
Abstract: Thomas Parke Hughes (1923-2014), was one of the leading historians of technology of his era. Consists of files relating to the research and production of Professor Hughes' two prize-winning books, Networks of Power, and Elmer Sperry: Inventor and Engineer. Also includes are Elmer Sperry's original desk diaries.
icon

Administrative Information


Access Restrictions

No restrictions on access.

Use Restrictions

Some materials are subject to copyright restrictions for further publication.

icon

Biographical Note

Thomas Parke Hughes, one of the leading historians of technology of his era, was born on September 13, 1923, at Richmond, Va. He received all of his university education at the University of Virginia, where he received his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering (1947) and an M.A. in history and Ph.D. in European history (1953).

Hughes taught history successively at Sweet Brier College (1954-1956), Washington and Lee (1956-1963), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1963-1966) before becoming a full professor at Southern Methodist University in 1969-1973.

Hughes spent the bulk of his teaching career (1973-1994) at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a major figure in the Department of History and Sociology of Science. Despite having to work under this older academic label, it was in the new and separate discipline of the History of Technology that Hughes made his mark. Along with Melvin Kranzberg, John B. Rae, Carl W. Condit and others, he was one of the founders of the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT), which sucessfully separated it from the History of Science as a distinct academic discipline. SHOT awarded Hughes its Leonardo da Vinci Medal, its highest honor for lifetime achievement, and he received numerous other awards, fellowships, visiting professorships, and memberships in learned societies in both the U.S. and in Europe.

Hughes first book was a 1971 biography of the engineer-inventor Elmer A. Sperry, but his main contribution was in the study of the large-scale techological systems, starting with, but not limited to, electric power networks. His second, and perhaps most ground-breaking book, Networks of Power: Electrification of Western Society, 1880-1930, was published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 1983. Both books won SHOT's Dexter Prize and set the course for Hughes' further career. The ideas developed in Networks of Power were further refined and elaborated in 1989's American Genesis: A Century of Invention and Technological Enthusiasm, 1870-1970, through Rescuing Prometheus (1997), Systems, Experts and Computers (2000), down to his last major work, Human-Built World: How to Think about Technology and Culture (2004).

Although not an academic sociologist, Hughes specialized in the social context of technology, the social networks and linkages among technologists and engineers, and the larger ways of thinking and acting when engaged in technological pursuits. Hughes pioneered thinking about technology in terms of systems rather than isolated inventions and innovations, helped develop the concepts of technological enthusiasm and technological momentum, and played a major role in scholarly debates over technological determinism and the social construction of technology.

Hughes died on February 3, 2014, in Charlottesville, Va., after a long illness.

icon

Scope and Content

The records consist of research and production files covering Prof. Hughes' two most important books, Networks of Power, and his biography of Elmer Sperry. The first contains large quantities of notes, pamplets, clippings and other documents covering the development of large-scale electric power in the U.S. and Europe. Hagley's American patrons will find the collections of rare European materials particularly useful. The files also include copies of proposed illustrations, many not used in the final published version, as well as typed drafts, correspondence with publishers, and reviews.

The Sperry materials are most important for Sperry's original desk diaries, which Hughes collected for his research.

icon

Separated Material

Professor Hughes personal library was acquired along with the papers. These publications have been merged into Hagley's general Published Materials collection and are individually cataloged in Hagley's online public catalog (OPAC).

icon

Series Descriptions and Inventory

I. Networks of Power
Box
1 Typescript, production notes
Box
2 Articles; page proofs
Box
3 Typed drafts
Box
4 Index cards
Box
5 Illustrations
Box
6 Reviews
Box
7 Notes - General
Box
8 Notes - Giant Power, Superpower, Con Edison, Tesla
Box
9 Notes - General Electric, Holding companies, Central stations
Box
10 Notes - Transmission, Grids, Niagara Falls power
Box
11 Notes - Brown, Boveri, Philadelphia Electric Co., Battle Creek Station
Box
12 Notes - Stone & Webster
Box
13 Notes - Edison
Box
14 Notes - Edison
Box
15 Notes - Great Britain, France, Europe-General
Box
16 Notes - Germany-General, Berliner Elektrizitats Werke, BSAF
Box
17 Notes - Germany - Rheinisch-Westfalisches Elektrizitatswerk Aktiengesellschaft, Bayernwerk AG
Box
17 Notes - Switzerland - Brown Boveri
Box
17 Notes - Soviet Union
Box
17 Notes - Scandinavia
II. Elmer Sperry: Inventor and Engineer
Box
18 Chronology cards
Box
18 Desk diaries (incomplete), 1912-1929
Box
18 Sperry's will and probate