MIT School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences - Great Ideas Change the World

Deborah K. Fitzgerald 
Kenan Sahin Dean, MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences 

Deborah K. Fitzgerald is a Professor of the History of Technology, in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society, and the Kenan Sahin Dean of the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. Under Dean Fitzgerald's leadership the School's mission is focused in three areas: 

     Research and Innovation — to meet the world's greatest challenges 
     Teaching Critical Skills — a foundation for success in all endeavors 
     International Education — educating leaders and global citizens 

In the following interview, Dean Fitzgerald reflects on her goals and priorities for the School:

Q & A with Dean Fitzgerald



Dean Fitzgerald's research centers on the history of agriculture and food in modern America. She is the author of The Business of Breeding: Hybrid Corn in Illinois, 1890-1920 (Cornell, 1990), and Every Farm a Factory: The Industrial Ideal in American Agriculture (Yale University Press, 2003), which won the 2003 Theodore Saloutos Prize for best book of the year from the Agricultural History Society, of which Fitzgerald is a past president.

Fitzgerald has received grants from the National Science Foundation and the Mellon Foundation, has played a role in the governance of the Society for the History of Technology, the Agricultural History Society (President), the History of Science Society, and the Environmental History Society. At MIT she has served on numerous committees, including Co-Chairing the Gender Equity Committee. Fitzgerald is also the co-sponsor, with Professor Harriet Ritvo, of the MIT Seminar in Environmental and Agricultural History (formerly the Modern Times/Rural Places Seminar).

She is currently working on a book that examines the role of World War II in fundamentally reshaping the food industry and the nature of global food chains. 

Every Farm a Factory
During the early decades of the twentieth century, agricultural practice in America was transformed from a pre-industrial to an industrial activity. In this book Fitzgerald argues that farms became modernized in the 1920s because they adopted not only new machinery but also the financial, cultural, and ideological apparatus of industrialism.

Fitzgerald examines how bankers and emerging professionals in engineering and economics pushed for systematic, businesslike farming. She discusses how factory practices served as a template for the creation across the country of industrial or corporate farms. She looks at how farming was affected by this revolution and concludes by following several agricultural enthusiasts to the Soviet Union, where the lessons of industrial farming were studied.




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