ensmenger-nathan-2014-03About Professor Ensmenger

Associate Professor
School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering

Adjunct Associate Professor
History and Philosophy of Science

Informatics West 223

Nathan Ensmenger studied engineering and operations research at Princeton University, where he focused on the development of expert systems. He worked for many years in the software industry for clients that include Deloitte & Touche, Ernst & Young, Bank of America, and the National Association of Manufacturers. Prior to joining the faculty of the  School of Information and Computing at Indiana University he taught at the University of Pennsylvania and the School of Information at the University of Texas – Austin.

Professor Ensmenger’s research agenda focuses on the social and cultural history of software and software workers, the history of artificial intelligence, and the organizational dynamics of information technology. His book, The Computer Boys Take Over: Computers, Programmers, and the Politics of Technical Expertise, explores the rise to power of a new group of technical experts in the American corporation. He is one of the co-authors of the third edition of the popular Computer: A History of the Information Machine. He is currently working on a book on the environmental history of computing.

Professor Ensmenger is the editor-in-chief of the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing and serves on the editorial board of the journal Information & Culture. He is also a contributing editor to Technology & Culture. He was a Mellon Fellow in the Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania, and is currently a fellow at the Rob Kling Center for Social Informatics.

For more information, see his curriculum vitae.


  • Ph.D. in History & Sociology of Science from the University of Pennsylvania (2001)
  • M.A. in History & Sociology of Science from the University of Pennsylvania (1998)
  • B.S.E. in Civil Engineering & Operations Research from Princeton University (1994)

Research Areas

History of computing; software labor and gender; environmental impacts of computing; history of artificial intelligence; organizational informatics

Courses Taught

What was one of the most engaging conferences you attended?

One of the most exciting movements in Science and Technology Studies has been the turn away from innovation to maintenance and repair. This is true even in computing: for example, the vast majority of software developers spent their time doing software maintenance. This past year the Stephens Institute of Technology held a workshop called The Maintainers, which was one of the highlights of my academic year. Equally exciting was a workshop at Stanford called SHIFT-CTRL: New Perspectives on Computing and New Media.

What associations do you belong to? What conferences do you attend?

IEEE Computer Society, Society for the History of Technology, The Society for Social Studies of Science (4S)

What are some of your personal interests or activities that may or may not overlap with research?

I am the editor-in-chief of the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing.

What methods do you favor in your work?

My work is primarily historical, although I also consider myself a sociologist of work and organizations.

What is in the 5-year plan, or what is something you haven’t got around to doing yet?

I am currently working on a book exploring the environmental history of the computer revolution.