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Steve Chaplin
University Communications

Last modified: Monday, September 9, 2013

Daumas Prize for best writing on tech history awarded to IU informaticist Ensmenger

Sept. 9, 2013

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The International Committee for the History of Technology has awarded the 2013 Maurice Daumas Prize to Nathan Ensmenger, an associate professor at Indiana University's School of Informatics and Computing. The prize was announced at the 2013 ICOHTEC Knowledge at Work Symposium in Manchester, UK.

Ensmenger, Nathan

Nathan Ensmenger

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The Maurice Daumas Prize, named after the noted French historian of science and technology, is awarded annually for the best article on the history of technology published in a journal or edited volume within two previous calendar years.

Ensmenger received the award for his article "Is Chess the Drosophila of AI? The Social History of an Algorithm," published last year in the journal Social Studies of Science. The article explores the emergence of computer chess as an experimental technology, its significance in the developing research practices of the artificial intelligence community, and the unique ways in which the decision to focus on chess shaped research on artificial intelligence in the 1970s. More broadly, the research attempted to open up the virtual black box of computer software to the scrutiny of historical and sociological analysis.

"Being awarded the Daumas Prize is a great honor for a historian of technology, and I am particularly pleased that my work on the social factors that influence the design and adoption of computer algorithms, which is a relatively new research area for me, achieved such public recognition," Ensmenger said.

Ensmenger came to IU last year after having served for almost a decade on the faculty of the History & Sociology of Science department at the University of Pennsylvania, where he also chaired the undergraduate major in Science, Technology & Society. He earned a bachelor of science in engineering from Princeton University, and a master of arts and PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. Generally, his research focuses on the social and cultural history of software and software workers and the organizational dynamics of information technology

The Daumas Prize recognizes innovative research in the history of technology, and the International Committee for the History of Technology is interested in the history of technology, focusing on technological development as well as its relationship to science, society, economy, culture, and the environment.

ICOTECH was founded in 1968 to foster international cooperation for the study and development of the history of technology and its relationship to science, society, economy, culture and the environment.

For more information or to speak with Ensmenger, please contact Steve Chaplin, University Communications, at 812-856-1896 or