Kranzberg Lecture

Alexandre Herlea
The History of Technology and the European Unity

This conference about the History of Technology and the European unity opens the ICOHTEC symposium, whose general theme is: “Technology in Times of Transition”. It sets into parallel lines the birth and the evolution, in Europe, of a discipline—the History of Technology—and that of an idea which leads to the construction of the European Union.

This presentation is chronologically divided in five parts: the Middle Age; the Renaissance period; the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century; from the middle of the 19th century to the Second World War; after the Second World War until the Treaty for the EU in 1992. It shows the dependence of the History of Technology and of the idea of European unity on human thought, on cultural and spiritual contexts. At the same time highlights a wide range of chronological similarities, of a similar rhythm of evolution, maturation, and implementation.

In the Middles Ages, Europe was united by the Christian faith and monasteries played an important role in the preservation of technological memory. During the Renaissance period, the first projects dealing with the European political unification appear at the same time as the first technical publications: the “Theatrum Machinarum”. In the second half of the nineteenth century, a debate emerges on the legal form of a united Europe and the evolution of technology ceases to be solely regarded as a genealogy of technology and is integrated in economic, social, historical analyses. Between the two world wars, Aristide Briand’s project for a federal Europe, in which the syntagma “European Union” is used for the first time, and Lucien Febvre’s manifesto for the creation of a new branch of history, the History of Technology, were both launched. After the Second World War, the idea of European unity came to be implemented, the European Union to be established, and the History of Technology to reach maturity and to be fully recognized as an academic discipline.

Today the EU is integrating into its plans (see the Lisbon and Europe 2000 strategies) the evolution of techno-science, and History of Technology is expected to play its role at the technological assessment and technological forecasting levels. In a rapid changing world burdened by crises, morality must dominate efficiency.

Alexandre Herlea

Professor Emeritus at the Université de Technologie Belfort-Montbéliard, France

Alexandre Herlea

Born in 1942 in Brasov, Romania, A. Herlea obtained his mechanical engineering diploma from “Institutul Politehnic” of Brasov in 1965. Resident in France since 1972, he was a research assistant at the “Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers” (CNAM), Paris, and obtained his Ph.D. degree in history of science and technology, in 1977. His Ph.D. thesis was directed by Professor Maurice Daumas whose collaborator he became. After post-doctoral studies in the United States (Princeton, Pennsylvania, Smithsonian Institution), he continued his university career at the CNAM (maître de conferences) until 1995, when he became full professor of history of technology at the “Université de Technologie Belfort-Montbéliard” (UTBM). During this time, at Paris XI–Sorbonne he earned the “Habilitation à diriger les recherches en sciences”  diploma and was also associate professor at the “Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufactures” and advisor for technical museology at the “Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie”, Paris. In 1990, he was visiting professor at the “Michigan Technological University”, USA. Until 2011, when he retired and became emeritus professor at UTBM, continuing to lead Ph.D. theses, he was a member of the university board, department director and director of international relations.

Herlea is author, co-author, and editor of ten books, notably the reference treatise Histoire Générale des Techniques (Paris: PUF, 1978). He has published a large number of scientific articles, and contributed to the realization of more than twenty-five exhibitions. He is an elected member of several academic societies, including the: “International Academy of History of Science” (IAHS), “Comité des Travaux Historiques et Scientifiques” (CTHS), “International Committee for the History of Technology” (ICOHTEC), “Société Française d’Histoire des Sciences et des Techniques” (SFHST), “Society for the History of Technology” (SHOT) and “Comitetul Roman pentru Istoria si Filozofia Stiintei” (CRIFS), with leadership responsibilities in some of them, such as the presidency of ICOHTEC.

He also had significant political and administrative responsibilities. He was Minister of European Integration in the Romanian government (1996–99), ambassador, chief of the Romanian Mission to the EU and vice-president of the “Christian Democrat International” (CDI). A. Herlea’s distinctions include: in France, the silver medal of the “Société d’Encouragement au Progrès”, “Les Palmes Académiques” and “La Légion d’Honneur” (commandeur); and in Romania, “Serviciul credincios” (high officer) and Doctor Honoris Causa of “Universitatea Transilvania Brasov”.