Paul N. Edwards is William J. Perry Fellow in International Security and Senior Research Scholar at CISAC, as well as Professor of Information and History at the University of Michigan. At Stanford, his teaching includes courses in the Ford Dorsey Program in International Policy Studies and the Program in Science, Technology & Society. His research focuses on the history, politics, and culture of knowledge and information infrastructures. He focuses especially on environmental security (e.g. climate change, Anthropocene risks, and nuclear winter).
Edwards’s book A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming (MIT Press, 2010), a history of the meteorological information infrastructure, received the Computer Museum History Prize from the Society for the History of Technology, the Louis J. Battan Award from the American Meteorological Society, and other prizes. The Economist magazine named A Vast Machine a Book of the Year in 2010. Edwards’s book The Closed World: Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America (MIT Press, 1996) — a study of the mutual shaping of computers, military strategy, and the cognitive sciences from 1945-1990 — won honorable mention for the Rachel Carson Prize of the Society for Social Studies of Science. It has been translated into French and Japanese. Edwards is also co-editor of Changing the Atmosphere: Expert Knowledge and Environmental Governance (MIT Press, 2001) and Changing Life: Genomes, Ecologies, Bodies, Commodities (University of Minnesota Press, 1997), as well as numerous articles.
From 1992, Edwards taught in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society and (for two years) the Dept. of Computer Science at Stanford. In 1999 he moved to the University of Michigan School of Information, where he founded and directed the UM Science, Technology & Society Program. He returned to Stanford in 2017 as a long-term William J. Perry Fellow and Senior Research Scholar, though he retains a full professorship in Information and History at Michigan. Edwards has advised PhD students at universities in France, Norway, Finland, Canada, and South Africa as well as the United States.
Edwards holds a PhD in History of Consciousness from the University of California, Santa Cruz (1988) and a bachelor’s degree in Language and Mind from Wesleyan University (1980). His work has been funded by the US National Science Foundation, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Sloan Foundation. He has been a Carnegie Scholar, a Guggenheim Fellow, a Senior Fellow of the Michigan Society of Fellows, and Distinguished Faculty in Sustainability at the Graham Sustainability Institute. Edwards has held visiting positions at the Paris Institute of Political Sciences (SciencesPo), France; the Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Sciences, Norway; Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, Netherlands; the University of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa; the University of Melbourne, Australia; and Cornell University.
With Geoffrey C. Bowker, Edwards edits the MIT Press Infrastructures book series. He currently serves on the editorial boards of the journals Big Data & Society, Information & Culture, and Internet Histories: Digital Technology, Culture and Society, and was previously a deputy editor of Climatic Change.
Edwards' current research concerns the history and future of knowledge infrastructures, as well as further work on the history of climate science and other large-scale environmental data systems.