Robert Morgan, former professor of engineering, 89

Morgan established Department of Technology and Human Affairs

Beth Miller 
(From left): Chancellor William H. Danforth, Elvera Stuckenberg, Robert Morgan, James McKelvey, dean of the School of Engineering. (The Record, Sept. 24, 1987)
(From left): Chancellor William H. Danforth, Elvera Stuckenberg, Robert Morgan, James McKelvey, dean of the School of Engineering. (The Record, Sept. 24, 1987)

Robert Morgan, who was a professor in the Engineering School at Washington University in St. Louis for more than 30 years, died Monday, June 26, 2023 in Falls Church, Virginia. He was 89.


Morgan joined the Washington University faculty in 1968 as a visiting associate professor and retired from the university in 1999 as a professor. He was a part-time lecturer until 2002. He worked to build new research and educational activities on the social applications of technology, which led to him becoming the founding chair of the Department of Technology and Human Affairs in the School of Engineering and ultimately the first Elvera and William Stuckenberg Professor of Technology and Human Affairs, a title he held until his retirement.

In addition to his work at Washington University, he was a science public policy fellow at the Brookings Institution; chairman of the advisory subcommittee of the Technology Transfer Program at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); a member of the national advisory board program on ethics and values in science and technical at the National Science Foundation (NSF); a member of the commission on research grants at the National Research Council; a Sigma Xi national lecturer; a visiting senior analyst at the Office of Technology Assessment of the U.S. Congress; and a fellow at the National Academy of Engineering.

“Bob was passionate about training engineers to understand the human dimensions of technology, how as engineers they could — and should — positively impact society, and the importance of grounding policy decisions in sound science,” said Jay Turner, James McKelvey Professor of Engineering Education, vice dean for education and head of the Division of Engineering Education. “He viewed engineering as a leading discipline to address global challenges but with eyes wide open about the potential pitfalls and consequences. His vision carries through to how we aspire to train our students today.”

“Bob Morgan was a spirited and enthusiastic colleague, whose focus in the latter part of his career was on engineering policy,” said Ron Cytron, professor of computer science & engineering. “Ahead of his time, Bob's passion was to consider the benefits and challenges of new technologies for society. His Engineering and Policy department in what is now McKelvey School of Engineering was a blueprint that other institutions have followed in partnering forces for advancing technology with methodological considerations of how that technology impacts society, for better or worse.” 

Lorrie Cranor, now the FORE Systems Professor of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University, earned a master’s in technology and human affairs in 1993 and a doctorate in engineering & public policy in 1996 from Washington University. She worked in Cytron’s lab as a doctoral student.

“Bob's influence on her work in those days compelled us to research the conditions under which an electorate has changed its voting system,” Cytron said.  “Bob's enthusiasm for this type of research was infectious, and it is gratifying to see institutions of higher learning and government agencies carrying out the important work championed by Bob.”

Morgan earned a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in 1956; master’s degrees in chemical and nuclear engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1959; and a doctorate in chemical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1965.

Morgan is survived by his son, Jonathan, and his wife, Lorrie; grandson Nicholas and his wife, Joanna; grandson Christopher, and many family and friends. He was predeceased by his wife of 63 years, Nancy, in 2022, and son Thomas in 2018.

A memorial service will be held July 29, 2023, at 11 a.m. at Murphy Funeral Home, 4510 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Virginia 22203.

Memorial contributions may be made to the ACLU Foundation.

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