History of HSOC

Early Years


The first general history course, simply called 'History,' is offered to students. Previously, the only history-related course offered was the 'History of Architecture.' However, this general history course still aimed, "to give a working background for the advanced courses in the History of Architecture," and special emphasis was, "laid on the contributions which the nations have made to Art and Government."

Robert Evans Sheppard, 1937
Robert Evans Sheppard, 1937

As the Institute had no Department of History, this course was under the direction of faculty in the English Department.


Robert Evans Sheppard is hired as the first Associate Professor in History and Economics. 

History courses expanded to include ‘Special History of the United States,’ ‘Greek and Roman History,’ ‘The History of Modern Europe,’ and ‘A General History of the United States.


The Department Economics and Social Science is established. The general survey course is expanded to encompass two semester and a broader scope of history. Per the 1934-1935 course catalog:

Course catalog from 1934 shows history classes available at Georgia Tech
History Courses in the 1934 Course Catalog

This course is designed to give students of the Freshman class a comprehensive survey in outline of the facts and processes by which the world of men in which they live has come to be what it is, so that with clearer understanding they may feel inspired to do their part in loyal service to their fellow men. It will cover two semesters and embrace approximately 96 hours. A few introductory lectures will give a vista of pre-historic man and his environment. The more ancient, Grecian, Hellenistic and Roman civilizations will be briefly reviewed for their permanent contributions to the modern world. But the Middle Ages may be taken as the actual starting point of the course, as the foundation upon which the modern structure rests. The pertinent Economics and Social Science offerings of History, Economics, Government, Sociology and Geography with some Philosophy, will be woven into an intelligible revelation of the unfolding of our civilization of today.


Courses in economic history are offered, in addition to a course entitled ‘Technology and Society,’ which was an early precursor to History of Technology courses.

Introduction to the Department of Social Sciences from the 1949 edition of the Georgia Tech yearbook, featuring Department Head Sisk.
Page for the Social Science Department in the 1949 Blueprint, featuring Department Head G.N. Sisk


The Department of Economics and Social Science changes its name to the Department of Social Science. Economics courses are primarily moved to the Department of Industrial Management.



Introductory courses in sociology and philosophy are added. Per the 1950-51 course catalog, the Department of Social Science served, “the college as an integral part of its program of general education. To be a fully educated citizen the engineer must have a broad background of general training in fields not specifically technical.”



Students take courses in African American History at Georgia Tech in 1969
Georgia Tech Students Take Courses in African American History with Professor William Peace III (Blueprint, 1969)


Georgia Tech’s first African American instructor, William Peace, is hired by the Department of Social Sciences to teach a course in African-American History. The course was approved after student activists demanded that the Institute adopt an updated curriculum that addressed issues of civil rights.

The Department of Social Science breaks out its course offerings into four categories: General Social Sciences, Philosophy, Political Science, and Sociology.

Associate Professor Patrick Kelly submits a proposal for “The Georgia Tech Center for the Study of the Impact of Science and Technology.” In his proposal, Professor Kelly laid out five purposes for the development and activities of the Center:

  • “To seek increased knowledge and understanding of the consequences, for man and his environment, of scientifically induced change.
  • To help students at Georgia Tech gain a perspective on their future professional role that include a grasp of its social and environmental dynamics.
  • To encourage the cooperation of scholars in various fields, in addressing the questions of the human values and consequences implicit in the deployment of technological and scientific innovation.
  • To help minimize the dislocations and disruptions that at many levels accompany scientific and technological advances, by sponsoring a variety of educational and research activities.
  • And finally, to be a creative instrument in the evolution of Georgia Tech towards the status of a ‘university polarized around science and technology,’ and second to none."

The Student Government Association and faculty from the Department of Social Science establish the Tech Free University, which offered free, non-credit courses in order to fill a demand for humanities courses that was not being met by the curriculum. The Free University lectures/discussions covered “the cold war, economic problems, racial strife, and the development of urban problems, and were open to any Tech student who wished to attend. Some of the proposed topics include ‘The New Art,’ ‘A Study of Campus Politics,’ and ‘The Current Cinema.’”

Sam Webb, Dean of the General College, acknowledges the growing interest of social sciences in Georgia Tech students and faculty members. Per the 1968 Annual Report of the President:

Current discussion heard around the campus about what to do with the social sciences and humanities at Georgia Tech is a case in point. Conversations I have heard suggest there is a recognition by a substantial number of faculty members that solutions of engineering problems and scientific investigation can no longer be approached in vacuo but must be viewed within a wider social, political, and psychological frame of reference. Our educational programs do not presently provide for problem solving in these types of frame of reference. Nor is it clear to what extent such may be introduced into our curricula and how.


Robert Woodbury, the first Callaway Professor
Robert Woodbury, Tech's First Callaway Professor of the History of Technology


The History of Technology program is created in the Department of Social Sciences. Controversial at the time, the program prefigures the College's use of engineering, science, and technology as lenses on humanities and social sciences.

Robert Woodbury arrives at Tech as the first Callaway Professor of the History of Technology.


The Department of Social Science reorganizes its classes under four disciplines: History, Philosophy and History of Science, Political Science, and Sociology

Dorothy Cowser Yancy
Dorothy Cowser Yancy


Dr. Dorothy Cowser Yancy is employed as an assistant professor in the Department of Social Sciences. She went on to be the first African American professor to be promoted and tenured as a full professor at Georgia Tech.

In order to, “assist the student in identifying flexible, yet coherent programs of study in areas other than his major,” the Department of Social Sciences establishes 8 minors in American Political Systems, History of Science and Technology, International Affairs, Philosophy of Science, American Studies Science, Technology and Society, Urban Affairs, and Sociopolitical Systems (open to Psychology majors only).

Melvin Kranzberg in the Classroom
Melvin Kranzberg in the Classroom


President Joseph Pettit recruits Professor Melvin Kranzberg to Georgia Tech to serve as the second Callaway Professor in the History of Technology


The eight minors offered by the Department of Social Sciences are changed to seven certificate programs in history, philosophy, political science, and sociology, while the remaining certificates, “cut across these discipline lines to provide a foundation in international affairs, the interface of science, technology and society or urban studies.”


School of Social Sciences starts offering Masters Program
Master of Science of Technology and Science Policy (TASP) in 1981 Blueprint

The Department of Social Sciences becomes the School of Social Sciences.

Faculty members from the School of Social Sciences help establish the Master of Science of Technology and Science Policy (TASP),

which is the first degree granted within a social sciences department at Georgia Tech. Per the 1980-81 course catalog, “this two year degree was designed to train professionals with technical and scientific backgrounds to identify and analyze policy issues emerging from technological and scientific development in contemporary societies.” TASP applicants were strongly encouraged to have a strong undergraduate concentration in engineering or science with experience in statistics. The Master’s program had three tracks: international security policy, technology policy, and history of science and technology.


Dr. Bernard P. Bellon comes to Georgia Tech as an assistant professor. Dr. Bellon was a distinguished scholar of modern Germany, and he quickly rose to the rank of tenured associate professor. He died in 1993 after suffering from ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) for three years. Today, the School's Bellon Awards and Scholarships are given in his honor. 


In his inaugural address, President Patrick Crecine details his vision for a degree-granting history program at Georgia Tech: “Georgia Tech can become a new form of technological university by adding… degree programs in non-technical areas in the behavioral, social, and policy sciences and in the humanities… We add strength through strategic selection of areas in the humanities, social and behavioral sciences that complement technical areas - in areas like cognitive psychology, rhetoric and technical writing, public policy and management, and history of technology.”

Bruce Sinclair
Bruce Sinclair


Professor Bruce Sinclair is hired as the first Melvin Kranzberg Professor in the History of Science and Technology.


Modern Era


Following the establishment of the Ivan Allen College of Management, Policy, and International Affairs, the School of Social Sciences is separated into three new Schools of History, Technology, and Society (HTS); International Affairs; and Public Policy.

Ivan Allen College Building
The Ivan Allen College of Management, Policy and International Affairs



The first students enter into HTS’ Bachelor of History, Technology, and Society program. Per the 1991-1992 course catalog, the mission of HTS was to have students:

HTS Class Visits Georgia Tech Archives in 1994
HTS Students Visit the Georgia Tech Archives with Professor Gus Giebelhaus in 1993

…Develop an understanding of the complex social issues associated with the development of the modern world, especially as they relate to science, technology, and industry. Although course work primarily focuses on the period from 1500 to the present in Europe and the United States, attention is also given to the historical roots of modern society and to the development of non-Western cultures. Courses are designed to develop an appreciation of our multicultural and multiracial past, and an understanding of the historical context of current change in our technologically advanced society. Efforts are made to provide students, both those enrolled in the School's degree program and those fulfilling general education requirements, with an integrated view of human society.



The Master’s and Ph.D. programs in History of Technology are inaugurated in the School of History, Technology, and Society.


The Women, Science, and Technology minor, Georgia Tech's first joint minor program, is developed by faculty members from the schools of Literature, Media, and Culture; History, Technology, and Society; and Public Policy. Per its initial description in the `96 -`97 course catalog:

The WST minor links science and technology issues to those issues more traditionally associated with women's studies. The WST minor prepares Tech students—women and men majoring in engineering, science, social sciences, and humanities—to live and work in an increasingly diverse world. The minor helps students develop their understanding of the human side of science and engineering, involving not only gender issues, but inequalities of race and class as well.


Philip Scranton is hired as the next Melvin Kranzberg Professor of the History of Technology.

John Krige, 2008
John Krige, Melvin Kranzberg Professor of the History of Technology


John Krige is hired as the next Melvin Kranzberg Professor of the History of Technology.


HTS revamps its series of minors to include African American Studies, Asian Affairs, European Affairs, History, and Sociology.


HTS establishes an internationally focused version of its B.S. in History, Technology, and Society. This international program, “combines the traditional benefits of an HTS degree with the additional benefits of international education… There are two IP tracks: the English Language option, and the Foreign Language Option. HTS supports both options, which the Institute deems to be equal in difficulty and value. Both tracks require a total of twenty-six weeks in residence in a specific foreign country or region.”

Dr. Tone’s Advanced Topics in the History of Medicine class visited the Centers for Disease Control
Students in the History of Medicine visit the Centers for Disease Control with Dr. John Tone


HTS begins offering a minor in Health, Medicine, and Society.


HTS establishes the Sports, Society, and Technology minor.


HTS is renamed as the School of History and Sociology. According to Chair and Professor Steve Usselman, the new name was adopted in order to, “recognize sociology, which is one of our two core disciplines, and an area in which we look to expand.”



The School of History and Sociology is an interdisciplinary unit in the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts dedicated to the study of social change, past and present. The School offers a B.S. degree in History, Technology, and Society, as well as seven undergraduate minors and five certificates. The School also offers M.S. and PhD degrees in the History and Sociology of Technology and Science.

Students in the School of History and Sociology
Students in the School of History and Sociology visit the NationalCenter for Human and Civil Rights in Atlanta.



Department Heads and Chairs

Hubert E. Dennison, 1946-1948

Hubert E DennisonHubert E. Dennison began teaching at Georgia Tech in 1929 as an associate professor of commerce in the Evening School of Commerce. He became head of the Department of Economics and Social Science in 1946 before becoming the head of the School of Economics and Industrial Management in 1948. Dennison was well-liked by students and faculty when he retired in 1955:

For over thirty-six years [Hubert Dennison] has unselfishly and tirelessly worked for the advancement of his department, Georgia Tech and the State of Georgia. He has served as director of the [Department of Economics and Industrial Management] for twenty years, was one of the original founders and promoters of the Georgia Tech Evening School, forerunners of the Atlanta Division, University of Georgia, and has been the varsity golf coach since 1931. "Daddy" Dennison, as he is affectionately called by the students, has guided thousands of Tech men who have taken their places in the business world. Though his efforts many problems have vanished, many thoughts and ideas have been nurtured to fulfillment.

Glenn Sisk, 1948-1957

Glenn SiskGlenn Sisk began teaching at Georgia Tech in 1943 as an assistant professor of economics and social science in the Department of Economics and Social Science. While information surrounding his life is sparse, he published renowned papers about the history of the Atlanta University Center, and about the wholesale commission business in Atlanta during the late 19th century. He continued to teach at Tech after stepping down from his role as department head, retiring in 1978 after over 40 years at the Institute.




George Hendricks, 1957-1970George Hendricks

George Hendricks began teaching at Georgia Tech in 1946 as an assistant professor of economics and social science in the Department of Economics and Social Science. He became acting department head in 1957 and stayed on for over 13 years, overseeing much of the growth in social science education at Tech and the beginning of the History of Technology program in 1969. He became professor emeritus and then department head emeritus in 1974 before retiring in 1979.

Hendricks was a community activist through his founding role in the Atlanta Friends Meeting and Quaker House, with involvement in the Civil Rights Movement and increasing access to education for young people. Part of Hendrick's Cobb County, Georgia farm is now the location of Hendricks Elementary School. 

Patrick Kelly, 1970-1978

Partick KellyPatrick Kelly earned a doctorate in philosophy from Emory University in 1966 before joining the faculty at Georgia Tech. He played an important role in merging liberal arts and technology studies at Tech. In 1968, he submitted a proposal for the "Georgia Tech Center for the Study of the Impact of Science and Technology," which aimed to examine the social and environmental impacts of Tech's STEM research. He soon became the head of the Department of Social Science, and briefly served as the interim Chair of the English Department. He remained on the faculty into the 1990s. 



Jon Johnston

Jon J. Johnston, 1978-1980

Though Johnston only served briefly as the acting head of the Department of Social Sciences, he maintained a lengthy career at Georgia Tech and as a former president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. Johnston earned a BA from Haverford College and an MA from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He taught philosophy at Georgia State University from 1956 to 1966, then moved to Georgia Tech, where he taught from 1967 until his death in 2008.

Daniel Papp, 1980-1990

Daniel PappIn 1973, Daniel Papp was hired at Georgia Tech as an Assistant Professor of International Affairs with emphasis on international security and US-Soviet foreign and defense policies. In 1980, he became director of the School of Social Sciences. Along with other faculty, Papp was instrumental in founding the Master of Science degree in Technology and Science Policy. In 1990 he was appointed founding Director of the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, and went on to serve as President of Kennesaw State University from 2006 to 2016. 




August W. Giebelhaus, 1991-1994August Giebelhaus

August W. Giebelhaus joined the Institute in 1976 and became a full Professor of Social Sciences in 1987. He was Founding Director (Chair) of the School of History, Technology, and Society, and chief architect of the School's undergraduate HTS degrees and graduate programs in the History and Sociology of Technology and Science. He served in many roles to improve learning at Georgia Tech and was inducted into its ANAK, Omicron Delta Kappa, and Phi Kappa Phi honorary societies.

Giebelhaus has been honored for his teaching by both graduate and undergraduate students. He was the first recipient of the Theresa Jiminez "Commitment to Honor Award," recognizing his work as a member and chair of the Student Honor Committee at Georgia Tech. In 2007, he was honored as the Faculty Member of the Year by the Graduate Student Government Association.

Giebelhaus exerted strong influence on the field of the history of technology as assistant and associate editor of the international journal, Technology and Culture (University of Chicago). He has published four books and numerous scholarly articles.

Robert C. McMath, 1994-1996

Robert McMathRobert McMath began teaching at Georgia Tech in 1972 after receiving his PhD in history from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. McMath’s research and teaching interests have dealt with American political movements, particularly populism as a movement in the United States and Europe, the history of the new south, and the history of technology.

McMath has written numerous articles on American history, the history of the American South, and authored or co-authored seven books. After his time as the Chair of HTS, McMath became Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies and Academic Affairs under President Wayne Clough. He held onto this position until leaving for the University of Arkansas in the summer of 2005 to work on a new Honors College.

During his tenure at Tech, McMath received numerous awards including the George W. Griffith Award for Outstanding Teaching, the Dean James E. Dull Administrator of the Year Award, and the Governor’s Award for the Humanities.

Gregory Nobles, 1996-2001

Gregory Nobles came to Georgia Tech as an assistant professor in the School of Social Greg NoblesSciences in 1983, and he spent 33 years at Georgia Tech as a specialist in early American history and environmental history. In addition to teaching, he also served in three administrative positions, as Associate Dean of the Ivan Allen College (1994-1996), Chair of HTS (1996-2001), and Founding Director of the Georgia Tech Honors Program (2005-2014).

He held two Fulbright professorships and has received numerous research grants as well as residential fellowships at the Charles Warren Center at Harvard University, the American Antiquarian Society, the Huntington Library, the Princeton University Library, and the Newberry Library. In 2004 he was named to the Distinguished Lectureship Program of the Organization of American Historians and, for 2005-2008, was elected to the Advisory Council of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR); more recently, he has also served SHEAR as a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of the Early Republic and as a member of the SHEAR Book Prize committee.

After retiring from Georgia Tech, Nobles was the 2016-2017 Mellon Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the American Antiquarian Society, and for the 2018-2019 academic year, he was the Robert C. Ritchie Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California.

Willie Pearson, Jr., 2001-2005

Willie PearsonWillie Pearson, Jr. is a professor of sociology in the School of History and Sociology. He specializes in the sociology of science and technology, and sociology of the family. Prior to joining the faculty at Georgia Tech as Chair in 2001, he held a distinguished appointment as Wake Forest Professor of Sociology at Wake Forest University and adjunct in Medical Education at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

In 2001, he was elected a National Associate (lifetime appointment) of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. In 2005, he was elected as an American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) Fellow. Pearson has received a number of prestigious research grants, held several distinguished positions on advisory committees and panels, and has been appointed to the editorial boards of five sociological journals. He is the author or co-editor of ten books and monographs and numerous articles and chapters. 

Ronald Bayor, 2006-2011Ronald Bayor

Ronald Bayor is a historian who specializes in urban, ethnic and immigration history. At Georgia Tech, he has been the recipient of the Outstanding Teacher Award and the Geoffrey G. Eichholz Faculty Teaching Award.

Bayor has authored several award-winning books on ethnic and immigration history, and has edited or co-edited several reference works on the subject. He is also the founding editor of Journal of American Ethnic History and served as editor from 1981-2004. He has also received the Immigration and Ethnic History Society’s Distinguished Service Award, the Association for Asian American Studies Lifetime Service Award, and the 2008 Distinguished Editor Award from the Council of Editors of Learned Journals. He served as president of the Immigration and Ethnic History Society from 2006-2009.

Steve Usselman, 2012-2017

Steve UsslemanSteve Usselman first arrived at Georgia Tech in 1996 as an associate professor in the School of History, Technology, and Society, and served as the Director of Graduate Studies from 1996 to 2002.  In 2015, Usselman oversaw the change in name from the School of History, Technology, and Society to the School of History and Sociology in order to further recognize and emphasize the role of sociology as a core discipline in the department. He is currently the H. Bruce McEver Professor of Engineering and the Liberal Arts in the School of History and Sociology.

An historian of technology, innovation, and public policy, Usselman studies American economic development and the dynamics of global capitalism since 1815. He has published several books as well as numerous articles and book chapters, including the award-winning "IBM and Its Imitators," one of several devoted to the history of information technology.


Eric Schatzberg, 2017-Present 

Eric SchatzbergEric Schatzberg became chair of the School of History and Sociology at Georgia Tech after a long career in the now-defunct Department of the History of Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. At UW-Madison, he helped found and served as director of the Holtz Center in Science and Technology Studies, a nationally recognized locus for diverse and interdisciplinary research and public programming. 

Schatzberg studied engineering at Swarthmore College and history of science at the London School of Economics before earning his Ph.D. in History and Sociology of Science from the University of Pennsylvania. His research interests include the history of technology, culture, and science with particular emphasis on postwar technology. Schatzberg's scholarship on technology and culture has repeatedly received international recognition. His most recent book (University of Chicago Press, 2018) addresses the intellectual history of the concept of technology.