Associate Professor (18th and 19th Century US, gender and race, History of Technology/Medicine/Science)

Education

PhD University of Pennsylvania, 1993

MA University of Pennsylvania, 1988
AB Bryn Mawr College, 1983

Academic Biography

Nina Lerman teaches courses about empires and encounters in North American "colonial" history, about 19th-century US history, and about social, cultural, and material histories of the US -- including gender history, race and migration history, and histories of people interacting with their physical surroundings (nature, built environment, infrastructure, ordinary "stuff"). Her research engages, most centrally, the interplay of knowledge about things, and expectations and opportunities for people. She asks not only how people learn about technologies, but who gets to learn how to do what, and what it means in a particular historical context to know (or not know) how to sew, operate a steam engine, bind a book, design a generator, cook on a stove, program a computer. These are questions about ideology and access as well as about materialities and processes, so they connect histories of technology, labor, gender, race, class, education, and more in ways that often reframe our habitual categories of thinking. Her current projects, most often cast under the rubric "Children of Progress," focus on apprenticeship and education in the long process of industrialization in the US.

Professor Lerman was awarded Whitman College's George Ball Award for Excellence in Advising (2004), and with Drew Shoals '05 was awarded the Adam Dublin award for the Study of Global Multiculturalism (2005). From 2013-2015 she was on leave from Whitman, helping to launch Director Dagmar Schäfer's department "Artifacts, Action, and Knowledge" at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, Germany.