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headshot of Scott G Knowles
Scott G. Knowles, PhD
Department Head, Department of History
Professor, Department of History
Professor, Urban Strategy



3025 MacAlister Hall

My work focuses on risk and disaster, with particular interests in modern cities, technology, and public policy. My most recent book is "The Disaster Experts: Mastering Risk in Modern America" (UPenn Press, 2011), and I am series co-editor of "Critical Studies in Risk and Disaster" (UPenn Press, launch 2014).  Presently I am also a faculty research fellow of the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware.  Since 2011, I have been a member of the Fukushima Forum collaborative research community, with which I am currently co-authoring an edited volume on the Fukushima disasters.

I am active in the Philadelphia historical community--in 2009 I published an edited volume titled "Imagining Philadelphia: Edmund Bacon and the Future of the City" (UPenn Press, 2009), and I have contributed to the "Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia".  My work has appeared in academic venues such as Technology and Culture, Isis, History and Technology, Annals of Science, the Journal of American History and the Journal of the American Planning Association. I also write for more popular publications like the New York Times, The Hill, U.S. News and World Report and the Philadelphia Inquirer, among others.  I have enjoyed the opportunity to discuss disaster history and politics on the Marty Moss Coane Show and the Leonard Lopate Show.

In 2013-2014 I served on Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter's Special Advisory Commission on Licenses and Inspections.

PhD, History of Science, Medicine and Technology, Johns Hopkins University
MA, History, University of Texas at Austin
BA, History and Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin

Selected Publications:

  • The Disaster Experts: Mastering Risk in Modern America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011).
  • Imagining Philadelphia: Edmund Bacon and the Future of the City (Editor, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009).
  • "Defending Philadelphia: A Historical Case Study of Civil Defense in the Early Cold War" Public Works Management & Policy, (Vol. 11, No. 3, 2007): 217-232.
  • “Lessons in the Rubble: The World Trade Center and the History of Disaster Investigations in the United States,” History and Technology (Spring, 2003): 9-28.
  • “Knowledge for Use: Science, Higher Education, and America’s New Industrial Heartland, 1880-1915,” Annals of Science (January, 2002): 1-20 (with Robert H. Kargon).
  • “Industrial Versailles: Eero Saarinen’s Corporate Campuses for GM, IBM, and AT&T,” Isis (March, 2001): 1-33 (with Stuart W. Leslie).

Research Interests:

History of technology, disaster, and public policy