Matthew Hersch

Matthew Hersch

Associate Professor of the History of Science
Matthew Hersch

Areas of Research: History of Physical Sciences, Human Sciences, Material Culture, Media Studies, Science Policy, Museum Studies, Psychology and Theories of Mind, Science and Religion, STS, Technology and Society, Women and Gender Studies

Matthew Hersch is an historian of technology whose research examines Cold War-era aerospace, computer, and military technologies and their relationship to labor and popular culture.  His first book, Inventing the American Astronaut (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), explores the rise and transformation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's human spaceflight program during the 1960s and 1970s, analyzing spacefarers as a new kind of engineer-manager in a society increasingly defined by technologies of automation and control.

Matthew received his S.B. in Political Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his J.D. from New York University School of Law, and a William Penn Fellowship from the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned his A.M. and Ph.D. in the History and Sociology of Science.  While at Penn, he held a Guggenheim Fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum, and an HSS-NASA Fellowship in the History of Space Science.  Matthew later served as the National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in Aerospace History of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, where he co-curated the exhibit Blue Sky Metropolis: The Aerospace Century in Southern California (with Peter Westwick).  Before coming to Harvard, Matthew held dual appointments as a Lecturer in Science, Technology and Society in Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences, and as a Lecturer in Bioengineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Matthew's current research projects include the new edition of A Social History of American Technology (with Ruth Schwartz Cowan) and a monograph on the history of the technical, cultural, and political history of NASA's space shuttle program.  He has written for Technology and Culture, Sociological Review, Endeavour, The Journal of Popular Culture, and other periodicals, and his research has appeared in several anthologies on space technology, a topic upon which he speaks frequently.  He currently holds a Research Associateship at the National Air and Space Museum, where he consults on the history of human spaceflight.

Curriculum Vitae

Selected Publications:

War and Peace in Outer Space: Ethical and Legal Boundaries, with Cassandra Steer, eds. (Oxford University Press, 2021).

A Social History of American Technology, (2nd Edition) with Ruth Schwartz Cowan (Oxford University Press, 2017).

Inventing the American Astronaut (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

"Using the Shuttle: Operations on Orbit," in The Space Shuttle Legacy: How We Did It and What We Learned, by John Krige and Roger Launius, Editors (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 2013).

"'Capsules Are Swallowed': The Mythology of the Pilot in American Spaceflight," in Spacefarers: Images of Astronauts and Cosmonauts in the Heroic Era of Spaceflight, by Michael J. Neufeld and Stephen J. Garber, Editors (Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 2013).

"Space Apes Want our Women!  Primate Lust in American Science Fiction Film," in The Sex Is Out of This World: Essays on the Carnal Side of Science Fiction, by Michael G. Cornelius and Sherry Ginn, Editors (Jefferson: McFarland, 2012).

"The Semiotics of Spaceflight on the Satellite of Love," in In the Peanut Gallery with Mystery Science Theater 3000: Essays on Film, Fandom, Technology and the Culture of Riffing, by Rob Weiner and Shelley Barba, Editors (Jefferson: McFarland, 2011).

"Return of the Lost Spaceman: America's Astronauts in Popular Culture, 1959-2006," The Journal of Popular Culture 44 (2011): 73-92.

"High Fashion: The Women's Undergarment Industry and the Foundations of American Spaceflight," Fashion Theory 13 (2009): 345-70.

"Checklist: The Secret Life of Apollo’s 'Fourth Crewmember,' " in Space Travel and Culture: From Apollo to Space Tourism, by Martin Parker and David Bell, Editors, Sociological Review (Monograph) 57 (2009): 6-24.

"'Calm, But Still Alert': Marketing Stelazine to Disturbed America, 1958-1980," Pharmacy in History 51 (2009): 140-48.

"Apollo's Stepchildren: New Works on the American Lunar Program," Technology and Culture 49 (2008): 449-55.

Contact Information

p: (617) 495-9922