Professor of History

On Sabbatical 2014-15

Department: : History

Affiliated Department(s): Environmental StudiesGlobal StudiesScience, Technology, and Society


Office: Miller Library 246

Phone: 207-859-5326

Fax: 859-5340 (History)

Fax 2: 859-5229 (Global Studies)

Email: [email protected]

Mailing Address

5326 Mayflower Hill

Waterville, Maine 04901-8853


Ph.D. – MIT, 1987
A.M. – Harvard University, 1978
B.A. – Antioch Colleges, 1975

Areas of Expertise

Russian and Soviet history
History of modern science and technology, especially space, nuclear and genome policies
Environmental history

Professional Information

Paul Josephson, Colby’s Russian and Soviet history professor, is a specialist in the history of twentieth century science and technology.  He became interested in this subject through study of the Soviet philosophy of science, dialectical materialism, and its impact on the development of relativity theory and quantum mechanics within Soviet borders.  His first book was a cultural and political history of the Leningrad physics community from 1900 until 1940.  Josephson was also intrigued by the 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 seven other books on various aspects of modern science and technology.  New Atlantis Revisited, about the Kruschev-era Siberian city of science, Akademgorodok, won the Shulman Prize of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies.  His Red Atom covers peaceful nuclear programs in the former Soviet Union.  This book on flying, floating and stationary reactors, food irradiation programs, and fusion convinced Josephson that there is no such thing as a peaceful nuclear technology. (Please see “Publications.”)

The study of such large scale technological systems and their potential extensive environmental DAMAGE led Josephson into environmental history.  With students at Colby, he studies Soviet and Russian history, Science, Race and Gender, Luddism, and Environmental History.  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, but dreams of visiting the Grand Coulee Dam to understand what real concrete is.

Personal Information

Josephson enjoys outdoor athletics, construction, and travel.  He visits East Central Europe, Russia and Ukraine frequently for research.  He speaks and reads Russian fluently; reads and speaks German with some ability; and reads, slowly and painfully, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, and Portuguese.  Josephson was the president of the Portsmouth/Severodvinsk Connection, a sister city organization that successfully opened the closed city of Severodvinsk to American cities.  Josephson is a Pittsburgh Pirate fan, a critic of multi-purpose stadiums and astroturf, who dreams of a seven-game world series between the Pirates and Red Sox.  He loves spicy food, but avoids those high in fat.

Current Research

Paul is currently working on an NSF-funded project on the history of the conquest of the Russian north during Soviet power, 1930-1990.

Online Talks

“An Environmental History of the Soviet Arctic”

“Why We All Need to be Neo-Luddites”


(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).