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Robert H. Kargon

Robert H. Kargon is Willis K. Shepard Professor of the History of Science at The Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of The Rise of Robert Millikan: A Life in American Science and other books.

Titles by This Author

Cultural Innovation in the Second Industrial Revolution

At the close of the nineteenth century, industrialization and urbanization marked the end of the traditional understanding of society as rooted in agriculture. Urban Modernity examines the construction of an urban-centered, industrial-based culture--an entirely new social reality based on science and technology. The authors show that this invention of modernity was brought about through the efforts of urban elites--businessmen, industrialists, and officials--to establish new science- and technology-related institutions. International expositions, museums, and other such institutions and projects helped stem the economic and social instability fueled by industrialization, projecting the past and the future as part of a steady continuum of scientific and technical progress. The authors examine the dynamic connecting urban planning, museums, educational institutions, and expositions in Paris, London, Chicago, Berlin, and Tokyo from 1870 to 1930. In Third Republic Paris, politicians, administrators, social scientists, architects, and engineers implemented the future city through a series of commissions, agencies, and organizations; in rapidly expanding London, cultures of science and technology were both rooted in and constitutive of urban culture; in Chicago after the Great Fire, Commercial Club members pursued civic ideals through scientific and technological change; in Berlin, industry, scientific institutes, and the popularization of science helped create a modern metropolis; and in Meiji-era Tokyo (Edo), modernization and Westernization went hand in hand.

Techno-Cities of the Twentieth Century

Industrialization created cities of Dickensian squalor that were crowded, smoky, dirty, and disease-ridden. By the beginning of the twentieth century, urban visionaries were looking for ways to improve living and working conditions in industrial cities. In Invented Edens, Robert Kargon and Arthur Molella trace the arc of one form of urban design, which they term the techno-city: a planned city developed in conjunction with large industrial or technological enterprises, blending the technological and the pastoral, the mill town and the garden city. Techno-cities of the twentieth century range from factory towns in Mussolini's Italy to the Disney creation of Celebration, Florida. Kargon and Molella show that the techno-city represents an experiment in integrating modern technology into the world of ideal life. Techno-cities mirror society's understanding of current technologies and, at the same time, seek to regain the lost virtues of the edenic pre-industrial village.

The idea of the techno-city transcended ideologies, crossed national borders, and spanned the entire twentieth century. Kargon and Molella map the concept through a series of exemplars. These include Norris, Tennessee, home to the Tennessee Valley Authority; Torviscosa, Italy, built by Italy's Fascist government to accommodate synthetic textile manufacturing (and featured in an early short by Michelangelo Antonioni); Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela, planned by a team from MIT and Harvard; and, finally, Disney's Celebration—perhaps the ultimate techno-city, a fantasy city reflecting an era in which virtual experiences are rapidly replacing actual ones.