Lipkens Lecture: Technology, Societal Challenges and Global Sustainability in Historical Perspective

Lipkens Lectures
As the founder of the predecessor of Delft University of Technology, Antoine Lipkens (1782-1847) was a polyglot. An engineer, a statesman, an inventor. He changed what it meant to be an engineer.

In the Lipkens Lectures lecture cycle, Studium Generale dives into history, together with the Heritage Team of the Library. What did it mean to be an engineer in the past? How did the role of technology in society develop, and how do we still bear the fruits of that today? What can today’s engineers learn from the history of science and technology?

‘Technology, Societal Challenges and Global Sustainability in Historical Perspective’
In this very first Lipkens Lecture, Erik van der Vleuten will add a historical perspective to ongoing debates on the role of technology in ‘grand challenges’, ‘societal challenges’ and ‘sustainability’. He will address these themes in three steps by reporting on recent history of technology efforts.

First, he explores what we knew already about how engineers have engaged with societal challenges from roughly the birth of the discipline until today. Why and how have engineers engaged with societal challenges? Why have some technological solutions unexpectedly created new problems? And how have engineers sought to anticipate technology’s puzzling ability to both help and harm (e.g. through technocratic and participatory innovation)? Tentative answers to these questions, based on existing literature, were developed and used in teaching (reaching over 10.000 students at TU/e, where this was part of a compulsory university-wide course, and elsewhere).

Second, he discusses more specific research questions on these issues developed within the pan-European history-of-technology research community Tensions of Europe.

Third and finally, he discusses current efforts to research the sustainability challenge from history-of-technology perspectives, asking questions such as: what forms can this research take, and how can we negotiate historiographical research with the tricky politics of present-day sustainability initiatives?

Erik van der Vleuten is Professor and Chair of History of Technology at Eindhoven University of Technology, and scientific director of the Foundation for the History of Technology. He holds a Ph.D. in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine from Aarhus University, and a master degree in Science & Technology Studies from Eindhoven University of Technology. Erik is a co-founding member and past Chair of the pan-European research community Tensions of Europe and initiated its research program on Technology and Societal Challenges 1800-2050. He co-edited and co-authored several books on transnational infrastructure history Networking Europe (2006), The Making of Europe’s Critical Infrastructure (2013), and Europe’s Infrastructure Transition (2015), as well as a short history of engineers & societal challenges: Engineering the Future, Understanding the Past. A Social History of Technology (2017).

Programme (4pm-5.30pm)
Lecture by Erik van der Vleuten (TUe)
Intermezzo: presentation of an object from the Museumcollection of TU Delft Library
Reaction by Maurits Ertsen (CiTG)

Are you coming to the lecture and drinks afterwards in the Central Hall of the Library?
Register here (limited space).

If you want to watch the lecture online, it will appear a few days after the lecture on our Youtube Channel.

Next in this series:  

  • Design history and Creativity by Bregje van Eekelen, 14 October
  • Materiality in the Digital Age by Dominique Ngan-Tillard, 11 November
  • Jacques van Marken and the History of Social Entrepreneurship by Jan van der Mast, 16 December

This lecture is brought to you  together with the Academic Heritage Team of the Library 


Visit the location's website here.