Brief biography of Richard Hirsh

Richard Hirsh is a professor of History of Technology and Science & Technology Studies at Virginia Tech.  His academic background is unusual, since he holds a Master’s degree in Physics and a Ph.D. in History of Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Though previously writing about astronomy performed from outer space (published as Glimpsing an Invisible Universe in 1983), Richard turned his attention to the recent history of electric utilities after having served as chair of a citizen’s committee that created a new rate structure for the Gainesville (Florida) Regional Utilities System.  In 1989, he published Technology and Transformation in the American Electric Utility Industry, a book that describes the technological, managerial, and cultural reasons for the industry’s problems of the 1970s.  He has also worked as a consultant for the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, co-authoring a management history on the utility’s “ACT-squared” energy-efficiency R&D project.

In 1999, he published Power Loss: The Origins of Deregulation and Restructuring in the American Electric Utility System.  He continues to publish and speak on policy-related issues dealing with electric power systems, renewable energy, and energy efficiency, working with engineers, scientists, and policy analysts at Virginia Tech and other universities.

In an unusual twist for someone who focuses largely on contemporary policy-oriented concerns, Richard recently completed a book on the largely neglected—but relatively successful—efforts to power up farms in the years before the federal government created (in 1935) the Rural Electrification Administration.  The monograph, Powering American Farms: The Overlooked Origins of Rural Electrification, was published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 2022.

An abridged curriculum vitae can be read from here.