Publication Date

September 1, 1993

Perspectives Section

AHA Activities

Chris Hables Gray is the eighth annual recipient of the Fellowship in Aerospace History, a program supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The fellowship, administered by the AHA in cooperation with the Economic History Association (EHA), the History of Science Society (HSS), and the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT), is awarded in an annual competition by a joint committee of representatives from each organization and chaired by Alfred Hurley, University of North Texas. Other members of the committee are William Becker, George Washington University (AHA); Larry Schweikart, University of Dayton (EHA); Bruce Hevly, University of Washington (HSS); and James H. Capshew, Indiana University (SHOT).

Dr. Gray is a fellow at Oregon State University's Center for the Humanities. He received a doctorate in the History of Consciousness from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1991. He was awarded an NEH summer seminar fellowship in 1992 and named a fellow in the Smithsonian Institution's Department of Space History in 1990. Since 1991, Dr. Gray has served as lead writer and consultant on computer-based training programs as well as a multi-faceted learning system for college students. His book, Postmodern War: Computers as Weapons and Metaphors, is forthcoming. As a companion to this work, Dr. Gray is researching a book-length study of the influence military funding priorities have had on U.S. computer science, especially artificial intelligence research.

During the fellowship term, Dr. Gray will continue research on his project on the history and analysis of cyborgs as they have appeared in literature and media, "Cyborgs in Space: Space Research and the Spread of Cybernetic Organisms." He notes that although the word cyborg was coined thirty years ago and "soon passed into widespread use among computer hackers and science fiction readers…it is still not in many dictionaries." He argues that it is "perhaps the most useful concept we have to help us explore exactly how the extraordinary powers of today's technoscience are transforming, some say transcending, the human." He notes that many living humans "are actually cyborgs with an implanted pacemaker or an attached electronic prosthesis. Even those of whose immune systems have been systematically reprogrammed to resist certain diseases can be considered cyborgs." Although there have been studies on the importance of the cyborg in science fiction, the military, life sciences, and in society as a whole, there has not been an analysis of the idea of the cyborg in space research. Dr. Gray will examine holdings of the NASA History Office and other NASA research centers to trace the history of biocybernetics and other physiological research on humans and animals in space as well as the history of space suits and life-support systems and other aspects of manned flight that may become the precursors to full-fledged cyborgs. Dr. Gray comments that such research will help illustrate the importance of space exploration to the conceptions of the human being and how as a result they are changed physically and culturally.

Application deadline for the 1994–95 fellowship is February 15, 1994. The fellowship is for pre- and post-doctoral research in any area of NASA-related history. For information, write the Aerospace Fellowship, 400 A St., SE, Washington, DC 20003.

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