41st History of Technology Conference 2018

Technology’s workforce. Inventing, operating and learning technology throughout history
16 and 17 November 2018, Schaffhausen/Schlatt, Switzerland

On November 16 and 17, the Iron Library held the 41st Conference on the History of Technology. This year, 60 participants from 8 different countries travelled to Schaffhausen to partake in the conference. The conference topic was “technology’s workforce”.

On Thursday evening, the participants were welcomed with a premier. Instead of the usual optional dinner, the participants were invited to attend the speech of Yulia Sandarmiskaya (ETH Zürich) on the topic of artificial intelligence. This public event was organized by the Lecture Group Schaffhausen. Afterwards, all listeners were invited to an apéro riche at the Kronenhof.

The official opening of the conference by Roland Gröbli, Corporate Secretary of Georg Fischer Ltd and Chairman of the Governing Board of the Iron Library Foundation, was held on Friday morning. Over the next two days, the 14 speakers presented the audience with a wide range of perspectives on the topic of “technology’s workforce”. Olaf Schmidt-Rutsch (Dortmund) lectured about the “Industrial Labor Memory Archive” of the LWL Industrial museum and showed how historical witnesses remembered various industrial activities and how different these memories could be. Gerhard Dohrn-van Rossum (Chemnitz) talked about the knowledge transfer that occurred between medieval scholars and technical experts such as clockmakers. Serenity Sutherland (Oswego) on the other hand drew attention to the role of gender and its influence on the composition of technology’s workforce with her talk about the first female students at MIT.

Here too a premier took place. One of the speakers - Marisa De Picker (Leuven) – could not participate at the conference in person due to medical reasons. Without further ado a live video conference to her living room in Belgium was set up. In this way, the participants were able to benefit from an exciting presentation on the reintegration of wounded Belgian soldiers to the labor force with the help of prostheses.

In his concluding presentation, Andreas Rauch from GF Machining Solutions showed how companies must stay on the ball in today's digital age. The conference program was enriched by a factory tour through the facilities of GF Piping Systems in Schaffhausen.

The different approaches of the speakers revealed the breath of the topic and Marcus Popplow stressed this point in his closing remarks by suggesting that technology’s workforce deserved their own field of study.


Marisa De Picker, M.A., Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium
Prosthetic Labor Hands and the Mechanization of Disability. The Vocational Training of Belgian Physically Disabled Veterans of the First World War, 1914–1925

Prof. em. Dr. Gerhard Dohrn-van Rossum, TU Chemnitz, Germany
Watchmakers as the prototype of technical experts in pre-modern Europe. Migration and transfer of technical competencies

Dr. Pamela O. Long, independent historian, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellow, Washington/DC, USA
Bricolagic Practitioners and the Fluid Culture of Skilled Work in Late Sixteenth-Century Rome

Dr. Fay Lundh Nilsson, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
Technical Education and Regional Development – Technical Secondary Schools as Nodes for Industrial Development in Sweden 1850–1920

Dr. Peter Moser, Archives of Rural History, Berne, Switzerland
Taylor in sight. Mole in the mind. Konrad von Meyenburg and the reception of his discoveries in agrarian practice

Dr. Rupert Pichler, Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology, Vienna, Austria
Innovation in large enterprises. Hubert Hauttmann – an Austrian career in industrial research

Laura Platte, M.A., RWTH Aachen, Germany
Artificial intelligence: The engineer’s first humiliation?

Andreas Rauch, GF Machining Solutions, Biel, Switzerland
Digital Transformation at GF Machining Solutions: Engineering Industry in the Digital Age

Prof. Dr. Reinhold Reith, University of Salzburg, Austria
animal laborans and homo faber. An historical approach to the “craftsman orientation”

Prof. em. Dr. Leonard N. Rosenband, Utah State University, Logan/UT, USA
Journeymen Paperworkers, the Industrious Revolution, and the Industrial Enlightenment, c. 1700–1800

Dr. Yulia Sandamirskaya, Institute of Neuroinformatics (INI), University and ETH Zurich, Switzerland
“Artificial intelligence”: is it possible?

Nina Schläfli, M.A., University of Berne, Switzerland
Launch and establishment of steamship construction at Escher, Wyss & Cie. Transnational networks and technology transfer

Dr. Corinna Schlombs, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester/NY, USA
Computing’s Workforce: Keypunch Operators, Gender, and Class in Banking Automation

Dr. Olaf Schmidt-Rutsch, LWL-Industriemuseum, Dortmund, Germany
Not a textbook example of labor: the “Industrial Labor Memory Archive” at the Westfalian Museum of Industrial Culture

Dr. Serenity Sutherland, State University of New York, Oswego/NY, USA
Women in Chemistry’s Workforce: The Women’s Laboratory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1876–1884