UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies


Jon Agar

jon agar portrait

I am a Professor of Science and Technology Studies. I write on contemporary technologies (mobile phones, ID cards) and the history of modern science and technology. I am the author of Science in the Twentieth Century and Beyond published by Polity Press. I am also editor of the British Journal for the History of Science.

Here's a podcast of me talking about Science in the 20th Century and Beyond. It's about 30 mins long and covers topics such as the challenges of writing about both the history of life and physical sciences, cross-disciplinary and global histories, accounting for the rise of American science, why 1900 is not a bad time to start a history of science, science and warfare, and the 'working worlds' argument.

Science in the 20th Century and Beyond
  • jonathan.agar (at) ucl.ac.uk
  • phone: 020 7679 3521
  • office: 22 Gordon Square, room 3.3
  • recent publications (UCL database)
  • twitter: @jon_agar


On sabbatical (2013-2014). Past courses taught at STS include:

HPSC 1011 History of Modern Science
HPSC 2014 Science and Global Citizenship
HPSC 2015 Technology and Global Citizenship
HPSC 2017 Action for Global Citizenship
HPSC 3002 Science, Warfare and Peace

HPSCGA01 Introduction to Historical, Social and Philosophical Studies of Science, Medicine and Technology (MSc "Core Course")
HPSCGA19 Science, Governance and the Public

STS administrative duties

  • On sabbatical
  • Deputy Head of Department

Recent Papers

Jon Agar, '"It's springtime for science": renewing China-UK scientific relations in the 1970s', Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London (2013) 67(1), pp. 7-24.

Jon Agar, ‘Thatcher, scientist’, Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, published online May 2011

Jon Agar, ‘Sacrificial experts: science, senescence and saving the British nuclear project’, History of Science, (2013) 51(1), pp. 63-84.

Jon Agar, ‘Plant films’, for Secrets of Nature DVD, British Film Institute, 2010

Jon Agar, ‘Peas and Cues’, British Film Institute Screenonline analysis and synopsis, 2010

Jon Agar, 'What happened in the sixties?' British Journal for the History of Science (2008)41(4), pp.567-600

Jon Agar, Jane Gregory, Susie Harries and Simon Lock, ‘Public engagement in the private sector: a new form of Public Relations?’, in Martin Bauer and Massimiano Bucchi (eds.), Journalism, Science and Society: Science Communication between News and Public Relations, London: Routledge, 2007, pp.203-214

Jon Agar, ’What difference did computers make to science?’, Social Studies of Science (2006) 36, pp.869-907

Jon Agar, ‘Learning from the mobile phone’, RSA Journal, January 2004, pp.26-27

Jon Agar, ‘A phone with a history’, New Statesman, 16(774), September 15, 2003, p.R6

Jon Agar, ‘Science and information technology’, in Hollowell (ed.), Britain since 1945, Oxford: Blackwell, 2002

Jon Agar, Sarah Green and Penny Harvey, ‘Cotton to computers: from industrial to information revolutions’, in Woolgar (ed.), Virtual Society? Technology, Cyberbole, Reality, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002

Part of the flagship ESRC-funded programme to understand contemporary IT and society. Focus on urban policy-making and technological outcomes in rich context. Feedback given to many bodies, including Manchester City Council and Local Government Association. Rated “outstanding” by independent referees.

Jon Agar, ‘Bodies, machines, noise’, in Iwas Rhys Morus (ed.), Bodies/Machines, Oxford: Berg, 2002

Jon Agar, ‘Modern horrors: British identity and identity cards’, in Jane Caplan and John Torpey (eds.), Documenting Individual Identity: the Development of State Practices since the French Revolution, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001

Jon Agar, ‘A tool to fight bigamy, not terrorism’, New Statesman 14(677), October 8, 2001, p.22

Jon Agar, ‘Informatique et gouvernance: mécanismes nationaux et urbains de gouvernance’, Centre de recherche en histoire des sciences et des techniques (CRHST series), Paris, 2000

Jon Agar and Jeff Hughes, ‘Open systems in a closed world: ground and airborne radar in post-war Britain’, in Bud and Gummett (eds.), Cold War, Hot Science, Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Press, 1999

Jon Agar, ‘Info clichés suit Euro funders’, Times Higher Education Supplement, January 22 1999, pp10-11

Jon Agar and Brian Balmer, ‘British scientists and the Cold War: the Defence Research Policy Committee and information networks, 1947-1963’, Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences (1998) 28(2), pp209-252

Jon Agar, ‘Digital patina: texts, spirit and the first computer’, History and Technology (1998) 15, pp121-135

Jon Agar, ‘History of computing: approaches, new directions and the possibility of informatic history’, History and Technology (1998) 15, pp1-5

Crosbie Smith and Jon Agar, ‘Making space for science’, in Smith and Agar (ed.), Making Space for Science, London: Macmillan, 1998, pp1-25

Jon Agar, ‘Screening science’, in Smith and Agar (ed.), Making Space for Science, London: Macmillan, 1998, pp263-280

Jon Agar, 'The new price and place of university research: Jodrell Bank, NIRNS and the context of post-war British academic science', Contemporary British History (1997) 11(1), pp1-30

Jon Agar, 'Lunar echo experiments at Jodrell Bank', in Butrica (ed.), Beyond the Ionosphere: Fifty Years of Satellite Communication, Washington: NASA History Series, 1997, pp19-30.

Jon Agar, ‘Informática y technologías de la información’, in Rodríguez Alcázar, F.J., Medina Doménech, R.M. and Sánchez Cazorla, J.A. (eds.), Ciencia, Tecnologia y Sociedad: contribuciones para una cultura de la paz, Granada: Universidad de Granada, 1997

Jon Agar, 'The Flowers Report and the provision of computers to universities', Computer Journal (1996) 39(7), pp630-642

Jon Agar, 'Making a meal of the big dish: the construction of the Jodrell Bank Mark I radio telescope as a stable edifice, 1946-57', British Journal for the History of Science (1994) 27, pp3-21.


2012. Science in the Twentieth Century and Beyond
2003. The Government Machine: a Revolutionary History of the Computer
2003. Constant Touch: a Global History of the Mobile Phone (2nd edition 2004; 3rd edition 2013)
2001. Turing and the Universal Machine
1998. Making Space for Science: Territorial Themes in the History of Science
1998. Science and Spectacle: the Work of Jodrell Bank in Post-war British Culture


I have appeared on several radio programmes discussing history of science and technology, on diverse programmes such as:

Material World (Radio 4)
Struggle for Supremacy (Radio 4)
Good Morning Scotland (BBC Radio Scotland)
You and Yours (Radio 4)
Wiring the World (BBC World Service)
Five Live Drive (Radio 5)
Five Live Breakfast (Radio 5)
The Long View (Radio 4)
In Our Time (Radio 4)
Night Waves (Radio 3)

I have appeared on television discussing science and technology, including:

Hard Drive Heaven (BBC 4)
News at One (BBC 1)
BBC News 24 on ID cards (BBC News 24)
Shock and Awe: The Story of Electricity (BBC4)

In 1992 I (with Ben Marsden and Yakup Bektas) set up and ran Mersenne, the electronic mail discussion list and bulletin board. The aim of Mersenne is to facilitate the rapid communication of events and research, and act as a forum for discussion for history/philosophy/sociology of science/technology/medicine. It has grown rapidly. There are currently 496 members, from 30 countries


Dean’s award for teaching, Harvard University, 2007

An essay, expanding on research I carried out after my first year of postgraduate study, won the Singer Prize of the British Society for the History of Science (BSHS). The prize is awarded for the best essay by a young scholar in the subjects of history of science, technology or medicine

In 1997, my thesis was awarded the UKC Development Trust’s prize for the best thesis in the Faculty of Humanities