Carnegie Mellon University

David Hounshell

David Hounshell

David M. Roderick Professor of Technology and Social Change (Emeritus), Social and Decision Sciences


Ph.D.: University of Delaware


As a historian, I seek to understand innovation, both in its technological and organizational dimensions. Since 1982, I have studied the management of research and development in the chemical industry and in other science-based industries in the United States during the twentieth century. Recently, I completed a large-scale review of this topic, and I hope to complete a monograph on industrial R&D in the few of years. My interaction with SDS economists Steven Klepper and Wesley Cohen has been instrumental in my pursuing the history of economic thought about R&D, and I have recently published an extended essay on the early work of RAND economists on the economics of R&D.

I am currently engaged in several other projects. First, I am writing a sequel to my 1984 study of the development manufacturing technology in the U.S., which ended in 1932. I've published several essays on the development of automation in the post-World War II automobile industry, and I have other pieces planned. In this project I am particularly interested in the Japanese challenge to American manufacturers in the 1970s and 80s.

I am also carrying out an extended study of the RAND Corporation of Santa Monica, California, from its inception in 1946 until the end of the Cold War. This project has led me to develop a keen interest in the nature of scientific and technical change during the Cold War. My work on RAND also dovetails nicely with the research of many members of the SDS faculty because RAND was instrumental in the development of many analytical tools and methods that social scientists rely upon today. RAND was especially important in the development of tools for decision-making under conditions of uncertainty.


  • Hounshell, D. (1985). From the American System to Mass Production, 1800-1932: The development of manufacturing technology in the United States. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Hounshell, D. & Smith, Jr., J.K. (1988). Science and Corporate Strategy: Du Pont R&D, 1902-1980. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
  • Hounshell, D. (1992). Du Pont and the management of large-scale research and development. In P. Gallison & B. Hevly (Eds.), Big Science. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  • Hounshell, D. (1995). Planning and executing "automation" at Ford Motor Company, 1945: The Cleveland engine plant and its consequences. In H. Shiomi and K. Wads (Eds.), Fordism Transformed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Hounshell, D. (1996). The evolution of industrial research. In R. Rosenbloom and W. Spencer (Eds.), Engines of innovation: U.S. industrial research at the end of an era. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
  • Hounshell, D. (1997). The Cold War, RAND, and the generation of knowledge, 1946-1962. Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences, 27, 237-267.
  • Hounshell, D. (2000). Medium is the message, or how context matters: The RAND Corporation builds on economics of innovation, 1946-1962. In A. Hughe and T. Hughes (Eds.), System, Experts, and Computers. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Hounshell, D. (2000). Automation, transfer machinery, and mass production in the U.S. automobile industry in the post-World War II era. Enterprise and Society, 1(1), 100-138.
  • Hounshell, D., Holbrook, D., Cohen, W. & Klepper, S. (2000). The nature, sources, and consequences of firm differences in the early history of the semiconductor industry. Strategic Management Journal, 21, 1017-1041.

Administrative Assistant

Rosa Stipanovic