Allan Grant Maclear Professor of History, the Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science, and the College
Department Chair

Chair, Department of History
Faculty Member, Nicholson Center for British Studies
Faculty Member, Renaissance Studies

PhD'92 University of Cambridge

Mailing Address

The University of Chicago
Department of History
1126 E. 59th Street, Mailbox 45
Chicago, IL 60637

William Rainey Harper Memorial Library,
West Tower, room 602 – Office
(773) 702-2334 – Office telephone
(773) 834-1299 – Fax



Field Specialties

History of science; British history; history of intellectual property; history of the book and other media


As well as being a professor in the Department of History, Adrian Johns chairs the Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science. He is the author of Death of a Pirate: British Radio and the Making of the Information Age (Norton, 2010), Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates (Chicago, 2009), and The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making (Chicago, 1998), as well as dozens of papers in the histories of science, the book, media, and information. The Nature of the Book won the Leo Gershoy Award of the American Historical Association, the John Ben Snow Prize of the North American Conference on British Studies, the Louis Gottschalk Prize of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, and the SHARP Prize for the best work on the history of authorship, reading, and publishing. Piracy won the Laing Prize and was selected as Book of the Year by the American Society for Information Science and Technology. Johns has been awarded Guggenheim and ACLS fellowships. Educated in Britain at the University of Cambridge, he has also taught at the University of Kent at Canterbury, the University of California, San Diego, and the California Institute of Technology.

Recent Publications

For a complete list, see CV.

Lay Assaying and the Scientific Citizen.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 160, no. 1 (Mar. 2016): 18–25.


“The Coming of Print to Europe.” In The Cambridge Companion to the History of the Book, edited by L. Howsam, 107–24. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

“Intellectual Property.” In Globalization in Practice, edited by N. Thrift, A. Tickell, S. Woolgar, and W. H. Rupp, 183–88. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

"The Uses of Print in the History of Science." Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 107, no. 4 (Dec. 2013): 393–420.

"The Ecological Origins of Copyright Skepticism." World Intellectual Property Organization Journal 5, no. 1 (2013): 54–64.

"The Information Defense Industry and the Culture of Networks." Amodern 2: Network Archaeology (2013).

"Gutenberg and the Samurai: Or, the Information Revolution is History."  Anthropological Quarterly 85, no. 3 (Sum. 2012): 859–83.

"Historical Perspectives on the Circulation of Information." American Historical Review 116, no. 5 (Dec. 2011): 1393–1435 [A conversation with P.N. Edwards, L. Gitelman, G. Hecht, B. Larkin, and N. Safier].

Death of a Pirate: British Radio and the Making of the Information Age. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010.

Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.

  • Gordon J. Laing Award, University of Chicago Press
  • Book of the Year Award, American Society for Information Science and Technology
  • Outstanding Academic Title Awards, Choice Magazine

The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

"Ink." In Materials and Expertise in Early Modern Europe: Between Market and Laboratory, edited by E. Spary and U. Klein, 101–24. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010.

"Changes in the World of Publishing." In The Cambridge History of English Romantic Literature, edited by J. Chandler, 377–402. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

"Coleman Street." Huntington Library Quarterly 71, no. 1 (2008): 33–54.

"The Identity Engine: Printing and Publishing at the Beginning of the Knowledge Economy." In The Mindful Hand: Inquiry and Invention from the Late Renaissance to Early Industrialisation, edited by L. Roberts, S. Schaffer, and P. Dear, 403–28. Chicago: Edita/University of Chicago Press, 2007.

"Coffeehouses and Print Shops." In The Cambridge History of Science, III: Early Modern Science, edited by L. Daston and K. Park, 320–40. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

"Intellectual Property and the Nature of Science." Cultural Studies 20 (2006): 145–64.


—Launches censorship research project with Ada Palmer
—Receives Mellon grant to study relationship of algorithms to academic disciplines
—Lectures on "The Paradoxical Infrastructure of Innovation in Early Modern Europe" at the Illinois Institute of Technology [video, 54 minutes]