Paul R. Josephson

Faculty Emeritus (Retired)

Box 5326

Phone: 207-859-5326
Fax: 207-859-5340
Mailing Address:
5326 Mayflower Hill
Waterville, Maine 04901-8853
Josephson, Paul R.


B.A.HistoryAntioch College1975
A.M.Soviet StudiesHarvard University1978
Ph.D.Political ScienceMIT1987

Areas of Expertise

  • Russian and Soviet history
  • History of 20th century science and technology
  • Environmental history
  • Neo-Luddism

Professional Information

Paul Josephson, Colby’s Russian and Soviet history professor, is a specialist in the history of twentieth century science and technology, and also studies the philosophy of science and Neo-Luddism. He has written twelve books, most recently a history of everyday objects from soda cans to bananas to sports bras. His first book was a cultural and political history of the Leningrad physics community from 1900 until 1940. He then turned to a comparison of the fate of scientists under Hitler and Stalin, writing about this fate in a short textbook, Totalitarian Science and Technology. Josephson has written other books (see links below): New Atlantis Revisited, about the Khrushchev-era Siberian city of science, Akademgorodok, which won the Shulman Prize of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies; Red Atom on peaceful nuclear programs in the former Soviet Union; Would Trotsky Wear a Bluetooth? on technological utopianism under socialism; and most recently The Conquest of the Russian Arctic. (Please see “Publications.”) The study of such large scale technological systems and their potential extensive environmental damage led Josephson into environmental history. He also teaches on Science, Race and Gender. His research takes him to Russia, Ukraine, Brazil, Norway, Jamaica, and elsewhere. (Please see “Course Offerings.”) Josephson has stood on nuclear reactors in the former Soviet Union, jumped into icy Arctic water after a sauna, and eaten slightly radioactive mooseburgers. He has visited the industrial forest of Maine to examine the technologies of clear-cutting. He has poured his own concrete, and visited the world's largest hydroelectric power stations to understand the implications of the stuff.

Current Research

Josephson is working on two books, a history of speed bumps, and a history of major nature engineering projects in the former Soviet Union, 1900-present, called Stalin's Water Workers.


(Click on titles to visit publisher pages)
Industrialized Nature (Washington and Covelo, CA: Island Press, 2002).
Lenin’s Laureate: A Life in Communist Science (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2010).
Motorized Obessions: Life, Liberty and the Small Bore Engine (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007); out-of-print.
New Atlantis Revisited: The Siberian City of Science (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997). Shulman Prize of AAASS in 1998.
Physics and Politics in Revolutionary Russia (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991).
Red Atom (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005). Originally published in New York: W.H. Freeman and Co., 1999.
Resources Under Regimes (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005).
Totalitarian Science and Technology (Humanity Books, 2005), revised edition. Originally published Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1996.
Would Trotsky Wear a Bluetooth? Technological Utopianism Under Socialism (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009).

Josephson Webpage

Updated webpage


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