School of History


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Professor Crosbie Smith

Emeritus Professor


Crosbie Smith is a historian who specialises in the history of science and technology.

Crosbie Smith read History & Philosophy of Science (HPS) at Clare College, Cambridge, and graduated with First Class Honours. His postgraduate research on the history of Victorian steam power culminated in a PhD from the University of Cambridge. Appointed a Research Fellow in History of Science, he was one of the founding members of the history of science group at the University of Kent.

In 1990 Professor Smith's book, Energy and Empire (Cambridge University Press, 1989), researched and written jointly with Norton Wise (University of California Los Angeles), won the History of Science Society’s Annual Pfizer Award for the best scholarly book published in the field of over 100 books considered by the Prize Committee. His Science of Energy (The University of Chicago Press, 1998) also won the Pfizer Award (2000). Only the Isaac Newton biographer, Richard Westfall, had ever won the international prize twice over.

In 2002 Crosbie Smith received an Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB) grant totalling £445,000 for a research project on the history of ocean steam navigation in the Victorian period. It was the largest of its type awarded by the AHRB that year, and the largest received by any individual member of academic staff in any discipline at the University of Kent in 2001-2. The subsequent research required visits to archives in most major British port cities as well as to libraries in North America. In addition to a biographical database of ship-owning families compiled by Dr Anne Scott under his direction, a sample list of publications is shown below. He has presented papers on maritime themes at the Universities of Liverpool, Oxford, Exeter, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Belfast and St Andrews as well as the Institute of Historical Research in London, the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich and Harvard University.

He served as Secretary of the British Society for the History of Science between 1989 and 1995 and as Editor of the British Journal for the History of Science from 1999 until 2004. He is currently a member of the BJHS’s Editorial Board. He chaired the History of Science Society Pfizer Award Committee in 2004 following two years as a Committee member. He was also an Associate Editor (with responsibility for scientific engineering) for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

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  • (with Ben Marsden) Engineering Empires. A Cultural History of Technology in Nineteenth Century Britain. Macmillan (Palgrave), 2004 (paperback 2006). Pp. xii + 351.

Other Publications

  • (with Anne Scott) ‘“Trust in Providence”: Building Confidence into the Cunard Line of Steamers’, Technology and Culture, 48 (2007): 471-96.
  • Dreadnought Science: the Cultural Construction of Efficiency and Effectiveness’, Transactions of the Newcomen Society, 77 (2007): 191-215.
  • (with Phillip Wolstenholme) ‘“We are trusted”: Joseph Conrad and the Blue “Star” Line’, The Conradian 29 (2004): 39-63.
  • (with Ian Higginson and Phillip Wolstenholme) ‘“Avoiding equally extravagance and parsimony:” the Moral Economy of the Ocean Steamship’, Technology and Culture, 44 (2003): 443-69.
  • (with Ian Higginson and Phillip Wolstenholme), ‘“Imitations of God’s own works”: Making Trustworthy the Ocean Steamship’, History of Science 41 (2003): 379-426.


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School of History, Rutherford College, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NX

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Last Updated: 05/12/2014