Emily Thompson is a historian of technology who studies early twentieth-century America. Her research explores the cultural history of sound, music, noise, and listening, and she focuses on how these phenomena and activities intersect with technologies like the phonograph, motion pictures, and architecture.
She studied electrical engineering and physics as an undergraduate at the Rochester Institute of Technology. After a brief stint as an engineer at Bell Laboratories in Holmdel NJ, feelings of humanistic frustration led her to return to school to undertake graduate work in history at Princeton University. Since receiving her PhD in 1992, she has taught at many different institutions, returning to Princeton in 2007 as a member of Faculty in the Department of History.
She is the author of The Soundscape of Modernity: Architectural Acoustics and the Culture of Listening in America, 1900–1933 (The MIT Press, 2002); co-editor, with Peter Galison, of The Architecture of Science (MIT, 1999); and co-creator, with Scott Mahoy, of the website The Roaring ’Twenties (http://vectorsdev.usc.edu/NYCsound/777b.html). Her current project, on the transition from silent to sound motion picture production in the American film industry, has been supported by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Dibner Institute, the National Science Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Institute for Advanced Study. In 2005 she was named a MacArthur Fellow.