Thomas P. Hughes, technology scholar

Obituaries March 26, 2014 0 Comments

Thomas Parke Hughes, 90, formerly of Chestnut Hill, a retired professor of the history and sociology of science at the University of Pennsylvania, died Feb. 3 in Charlottesville, Va.

A leading scholar in the history of technology, Dr. Hughes had been the Andrew W Mellon professor at Penn from 1987 to 1994, and was the Mellon professor emeritus at the time of his death.

He was the author of five books on the history of technology, two of them edited by his wife, the late Agatha Chipley Hughes. His book “American Genesis: A Century of Invention and Technological Enthusiasm, 1870-1970” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in history.

While residents of Chestnut Hill, Dr. Hughes and his wife lived on Millman Street in a house designed by the noted architect Robert Venturi for his mother, Vanna. The house became a gathering place for neighbors and Dr. Hughes’ colleagues at Penn.

Born in Richmond, Va., Dr. Hughes received a doctorate in modern European history from the University of Virginia after earning a degree in engineering and serving as a naval officer in World War II. Before teaching at Penn, he was a distinguished visiting professor at the the University of Massachusetts and was Torsten Althin professor at the Royal Academy of Technology in Stockholm.

He was a member of the American Philosophical Society, the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and was a recipient of the Leonardo da Vinci Medal for the History of Technology and a John Simon Guggenheim fellowship. The Royal Institute of Technology and Northwestern University awarded him honorary degrees.

He is survived by a son, Lucian; a daughter, Agatha H., and his longtime partner, Mary Hill Caperton.

A memorial service will be held in early April at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Memorial donations may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association, Central and Western Virginia Chapter, 1160 Pepsi Place, Charlottesville, VA 22901. – WF

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