Edward Jones-Imhotep

Associate Professor and Director
VC 318, Victoria College, 91 Charles St. W., University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5S 1K7



PhD, Harvard University

Fields of Study


I am a historian of the social and cultural life of machines. I write about topics ranging from the history of music studios and of artificial life to space science and the technological geographies of islands. My research generally engages two broad themes: the changing historical boundaries between technology and nature; and the historical relations between machines and social order. Instead of exploring those questions through working technologies, I am particularly interested in histories of technological failure — breakdowns, malfunctions, accidents — and what they reveal about the place of machines and the stakes of machine failures in the culture, politics, and economics of modern societies.

My first book, The Unreliable Nation: Hostile Nature and Technological Failure in the Cold War (MIT Press), won the 2018 Sidney Edelstein Prize for best scholarly work in the history of technology. In 2017, I received the Abbott Payson Usher Prize from the Society for the History of Technology for my article, “Malleability and Machines: Glenn Gould and the Technological Self.” My current book project — Reliable Humans/Trustworthy Machines — investigates how people from the late-18th to the mid-20th centuries saw machine failures as a problem of the self: a problem of the kinds of people that failing machines created, or threatened, or presupposed.

For more information and a complete list of projects and publications, visit my website: https://www.edwardjonesimhotep.com.


Selected Publications

The Ghost Factories: Histories of Automata and Artificial Intelligence.History and Technology 36, no. 1 (2020): 3-29.

“The Natures of Technology,” Lychnos (2019): 265-272.

“Le spectateur sentimental et les ratés de la machine: Imaginaire de la guillotine et de la défaillance mécanique à l’aube de la République.” Techniques&Culture 72 (2019) “En cas de panne”: 3-17.

“The Analog Archive: Image-Mining the History of Electronics” (with William Turkel). In Seeing the Past with Computers: Experiments with Augmented Reality and Computer Vision for History, edited by Kevin Kee, 95-115. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2019.

“Sensors and Sources” (with William Turkel). In Varieties of Historical Experience, edited by Stephan Palmié and Charles Stewart, 219-239. New York: Routledge, 2019.

Made Modern: Science and Technology in Canadian Historyco-edited with Tina Adcock (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2018)

“Science, Technology, and the Modern in Canada” (with Tina Adcock). In Made Modern: Science and Technology in Canadian History, edited by Edward Jones-Imhotep and Tina Adcock, 3-36. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2018.

“Paris-Montreal-Babylon: The Modernist Genealogies of Gerald Bull.” In Made Modern: Science and Technology in Canadian History, edited by Edward Jones-Imhotep and Tina Adcock, 185-215. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2018.

“Causality.” (with Tina Choi) Victorian Literature and Culture 46, no. 3-4 (2018): 604-608.

The Unreliable Nation: Hostile Nature and Technological Failure in the Cold War (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2017) - Winner of the 2018 Sidney Edelstein Prize from the Society for the History of Technology.

“The Sentimental Machine.” Cosmologics Magazine (Fall 2017).

“The Unfailing Machine: Mechanical Arts, Sentimental Publics, and the Guillotine in Revolutionary France.” History of the Human Sciences 30 (2017) (special issue on Psychology and Its Publics): 11-31.

“Malleability and Machines: Glenn Gould and the Technological Self.” Technology and Culture 57 (2016): 287-321 - Winner of the Abbot Payson Usher Prize from the Society for the History of Technology.

“Sound and Vision.” Spontaneous Generations: A Journal for the History and Philosophy of Science 6 (2012): 192-202.

“Maintaining Humans: Electronic Failure and Human Nature.” In Cold War Social Science: Knowledge Production, Liberal Democracy, and Human Nature, edited by Mark Solovey and Hamilton Cravens, 225-243. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.