Joel A. Tarr

Richard S. Caliguiri Professor of Urban and Environmental History and Policy at Carnegie Mellon University

Joel Tarr received his B.S. and M.A. degrees at Rutgers University (1956, 1957) and his Ph.D. in American History at Northwestern University (1963). He has been a member of the Carnegie Mellon University faculty since 1967, and holds appointments in the College of Humanities and Social Science (Associate Dean, 1988-91, Acting Dean, 1991-92), the Heinz School of Public Policy and Management (Acting Dean, 1986), and the Carnegie Institute of Technology. He is the recipient of Carnegie Mellon University's 1992 Robert Doherty Prize for "substantial and sustained contributions to excellence in education." His main interests are in urban history, the development of urban technological systems, and the history of the urban environment.

Tarr has published extensively in these areas including: A Study in Boss Politics (1971); The Impact of Transportation Innovation on Changing Spatial Patterns: Pittsburgh, 1850-1934 (1978); Pittsburgh-Sheffield: Sister Cities (ed., 1986); Technology and the Rise of the Networked City in Europe and America (Co-ed., 1988), winner of the Abel Wolman Prize of the Public Works Historical Society for 1988; and, The Search for the Ultimate Sink: Urban Pollution in Historical Perspective (forthcoming, University of Akron Series in Technology and the Environment, 1996). His articles have appeared in many collections and journals, including: Agricultural History, American Journal of Public Health, American Heritage, American Heritage of Invention & Technology, Business History Review, Civil Engineering (ASCE), Environmental History Review, History Teacher, Journal of Urban History, Journal of Infrastrastructure Systems (ASCE), Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management (ASCE), Journal of Environmental Engineering (ASCE), Science Technology and Human Values, Public Historian, Technology and Culture, Urbanism Past and Present, Urban Resources, Urban Technology, and Water Spectrum.

He has been the recipient of fellowships and grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Park Service, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. He has served as President of the Public Works Historical Society of the American Public Works Association and as a member of the Executive Council of the Public History Association.

Tarr has been a member of several National Research Council committees concerned with problems of the urban infrastructure as well as serving on an oversight committee of the Federal Office of Technology Assessment for a project dealing with Cities and Technology.

His present research includes studies of industrial and municipal pollution, of manufactured and natural gas systems, and of the role of the horse in the development of the American city. 


Born: May 8, 1934 - Jersey City, New Jersey; Married, four children


B.S. Rutgers University, 1956 (High Honors)

M.A. Rutgers University, 1957
Ph.D. Northwestern University, 1963


Member of CMU Faculty Since 1967. Currently the Richard S. Caliguiri Professor of Urban and Environmental History & Policy, with appointments in the Colleges of Humanities & Social Sciences, H. John Heinz III School of Policy & Management, and the Carnegie Institute of Technology


1992-1993 Acting Head, Department of History, CMU

1991-1992 Acting Dean, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, CMU
1988-1991 Academic Associate Dean, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, CMU
1986 Acting Dean, School of Urban and Public Affairs, CMU
1975-87 Director, Carnegie Mellon University Program in Technology and Society
1977-86 Co-Director, Carnegie Mellon Program in Applied History and Social Science


Abel Wolman Prize of the Public Works Historical Society for the Best Book Published in Public Works History, 1988 (with Gabriel Dupuy)
Carnegie Mellon University 1992 Robert Doherty Prize for "Substantial and Sustained Contributions to Excellence in Education."


American Men & Women of Science

Directory of American Scholars
Contemporary Authors
Who's Who in America
Who's Who in American Education
Who's Who in the East
Who's Who in Technology


  • Co-Principal Investigator (with Sue McNeil, Haris Koutsopoulos, and Mitchell Small, Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering), "Brownfield Development: The Implications for Urban Infrastructure," National Science Foundation, 1995-1998, $900,000.
  • Co-Principal Investigator (with David Hounshell), "Western Pennsylvania Railroad Development and its Socio-Economic Effects, 1851-1990," National Park Service, 1993, $23,998.
  • Co-Principal Investigator (with R.U. Ayres & Peter Stearns), "Luce Chair in Technology and Social Change," Henry W. Luce Foundation, 1990, $525,000.
  • Principal Investigator, "Modern Languages and Technology," Jennings Mary Hillman Foundation, 1990, $75,000.
  • Principal Investigator, "Program in the Russian Language," U.S. Department of Education, Center for International Education, 1990, $36,000.
  • Principal Investigator, "The History of Industrial Waste Disposal: The Delaware, Hudson and Ohio River Basins as Case Studies," National Science Foundation, 1985, $39,000.
  • Principal Investigator, "Historical Evaluation of Pollution Inputs: The Potomac, Delaware, Hudson-Raritan, Connecticut and Narragansett Estuaries," National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, September 1982-October 1984, $175,541.
  • Co-Principal Investigator (with Robert.U. Ayres), "Opportunities for Small Manufacturing in Pittsburgh Area Mill Towns," Pittsburgh County-wide Corporation, 1984, $49,000.
  • Principal Investigator, "Proposal for an International Conference on Urban Technologies," National Science Foundation (U.S.-France Cooperative Science Program), 1983, $14,000.
  • Co-Principal Investigator (with Michael P. Weber), "A Course and University Program in World Cities: A Proposal to the Exxon Educational Foundation," December 1980, $26,570.
  • Principal Investigator and Director, "Proposal for the Carnegie-Mellon University Program in Technology and Society," Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, 1980, $250,000.
  • Project Manager and Principal Investigator, "Retrospective Assessment of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County Air Pollution Control Statutes: Values, Policy Formulation, Social Impacts and Value Change," Program in Ethics and Values in Science and Technology, National Science Foundation, 1978, $49,904.
  • Project Manager, "Values and Public Policy: A Series," Sperry-Hutchinson Foundation, 1978, $2,000.
  • Project Manager and Co-Principal Investigator (with C.F. McMichael, C-MU, CE; and D. Wojick, C-MU, Philosophy), "Retrospective Assessment of Water and Wastewater Quality Technology 1865-1920 and 1965 to Present," NSF/RANN, 1975, $86,300.
  • Co-Director (with Robert Dunlap, C-MU, EPA) "Proposal for a Program in Technology and Humanities," Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, 1975, $300,000.
  • Co-Principal Investigator, "Urban Game Project" (with Jack Belkin, C-MU, SUPA, Principal Investigator), General Electric Foundation, 1973, $100,000.

    I. Books and Monographs
    • A Study in Boss Politics: William Lorimer of Chicago (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1971).
    • Editor, Retrospective Technology Assessment-1976 (San Francisco Press, 1977).
    • Editor, Pittsburgh-Sheffield: Sister Cities (Pittsburgh: College of Fine Arts, Carnegie Mellon University 1986).
    • Co-editor (with Gabriel Dupuy), Technology and the Rise of the Networked City in Europe and America (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1988). Winner of the 1989 Abel Wolman Award of the American Public Works Association for the best book in public works history.
    • The Search for the Ultimate Sink: Urban Pollution in Historical Perspective in Environmental History Series, ed. by Martin Melosi (College Station: Texas A & M Press), forthcoming.
    • The Impact of Transportation Innovation on Changing Spatial Patterns: Pittsburgh, 1850-1934, Essays in Public Works History, Essay No. 6, Public Works Historical Society, Chicago, 1978.
    II. Articles in Journals (post 1980)
    • "Managing Danger in the Home Environment, 1900-1940," Journal of Social History, with Mark Tebeau, (Summer 1996), 29, #4.
    • "Patterns and Policy Choices in Infrastructure History: the United States, France and Great Britain," Public Works Management & Policy (Sage Publications), with Charles Jacobson, in press.
    • "Crisis Perception and Policy Outcomes: A Comparison Between the Environmental and Infrastructure Crises," Journal of Infrastructure Management, Proceedings of the American Society of Civil Engineers (Dec. 1995) I:195-204, with Kristin Sanford and Susan McNeill.
    • "The History of Water Works in the United States," Rassegna (March 1994), 57:37-41 (with Charles Jacobson).
    • "The Importance of an Urban Pespective in Environmental History," Journal of Urban History: Special Issue on The Environment and The City (May 1994) 20: 299-310 (with Christine M. Rosen).
    • "Searching for a 'Sink' for an Industrial Waste: Iron-Making Fuels and the Environment," Environmental History Review (Spring, 1994) 18:9-34.
    • "The Municipal Telegraph Network: Origins of the Fire and Police Alarm Systems in American Cities," FLUX, Cahiers scientifiques internationaux Reseaux et Territoires, No. 9 (July-Sept., 1992), pp. 5-19.
    • "The Evolution of American Urban Technology," Journal of Urban Technology, Vol. I (Fall 1992), pp. 1-19 (with Josef Konvitz and Mark Rose).
    • "Technology and the City: A Review Essay," Technology & Culture Vol. 31, April, 1990, 284-294 (with Josef Konvitz and Mark Rose); reprinted in somewhat different form as, "Technological Networks and the American City: Some Historiographical Notes," in FLUX, (Paris) No. 1, Spring, pp. 85-91, 1990.
    • "The Greatest Bridge Never Built" American Heritage of Invention and Technology, (Fall, 1989) Vol. 5, pp. 25-29 (with Steven J. Fenves). Reprinted in the Pittsburgh Press Sunday Magazine , Jan. 14, 1990.
    • "The City and the Telegraph: Urban Telecommunications in the Pre-Telephone Era," Journal of Urban History, Vol. 14, No. 2, Nov., 1987, pp. 38-80, (with Thomas Finholt and David Goodman).
    • "Curriculum in Applied History: Toward the Future," The Public Historian, Vol. 9, Summer 1987, pp. 111-125 (with Peter N. Stearns).
    • "Water, Electricity and Cable Television: A Study of Contrasting Historical Patterns of Ownership and Regulation," Urban Resources, Vol. 3, pp. 9-18, Fall 1985 (with Charles Jacobson and Steven Klepper). Translated into French and reprinted in Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussees, Groupe Reseaux Cahier Numero Special (Paris, 1985), and in Gabriel Dupuy (ed.), Reseaux Territoriaux (Caen, France: Paradigme, 1988), pp. 105-146.
    • "Industrial Wastes and Public Health: Some Historical Notes, Part 1, 1876-1932," American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 75, No. 9, pp. 1059-1067, September 1985.
    • "Reconstruction of Long-Term Time Series for Commercial Fisheries Abundance and Estuarine Pollution Loadings," Estuaries, Vol. 8, No. 2A, pp. 114-124, June 1985 (multiple authorship).
    • "Historical Perspectives on Hazardous Wastes in the United States," Waste Management & Research, No. 3, pp. 95-102, 1985.
    • "Perspectives souterraines," Les Annales de la Recherche Urbaine, (Paris, France: Dunod, 1984), Vol. 23-24, pp. 65-88.
    • "Water and Wastes: A Retrospective Assessment of Wastewater Technology in the U. S., 1800-1932," Technology and Culture, Vol. 25, #2, pp. 226-263, (with J. McCurley F.C. McMichael, and T.F. Yosie), April, 1984.
    • "History and Public Policy: A Conversation with Joel A. Tarr," Interview by Bruce M. Stave, in Journal of Urban History, Vol. 9 No. 2, February 1983, pp. 195-232.
    • "The Mill Town in the Industrial City: the Case of Hazelwood," Urbanism Past and Present, Winter-Spring, 1982, Vol. 7, No. 13, pp. 1-14 (with D. DiPasquale).
    • "Sewers and Cities: France and the U.S. Compared," Journal of Environmental Engineering (American Society of Civil Engineers), April, 1982, pp. 327-338, (with G. Dupuy).
    • "Assainissement des Villes: Socio-Techniuqe de I'assainissement des villes en France et aux Etats-Unis," Culture Techniqe, Fevrieer, 1981, pp. 215-223 (with G. Dupuy).
    • "Applied History: A New/Old Departure," The History Teacher, Vol. XIV, August 1981, pp. 517-531 (with P. Stearns).
    • "Changing Fuel Use Behavior and Energy Transitions: Policy Lessons from a Historical Case," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, No. 20, 1981, pp. 331-346.
    • "Changing Fuel Use Behavior and Energy Transitions: The Pittsburgh Smoke Control Movement, 1940-1950 A Case Study in Historical Analogy," Journal of Social History, Summer 1981, Vol. 14, No.4, pp.561-588 (with B. Lamperes).
    • "Disputes Over Water Quality Policy: Professional Cultures in Conflict, 1900-1917," American Journal of Public Health (April, 1980) V.70, No.4, 427-435 (with Terry Yosie and James McCurley, III).
    • "Coal and Natural Gas: Fuel and Environmental Policy in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, 1940-1960," Science, Technology, and Human Values (Summer, 1980) Vol. 5, No.32, 19-21 (with Gary David Goodman and Kenneth Koons).
    III. Chapters or Articles in Books (post 1980)
    • "The Centrality of the Horse in the Nineteenth-Century American City," in Raymond A. Mohl (ed.), The Making of Urban America (New York: SR Books, 1996), with Clay McShane, forthcoming.
    • "The Pittsburgh Survey as an Environmental Statement," in Margo Anderson and Maureen Greenwald (eds.), Revisiting the Pittsburgh Survey (University of Pittsburgh Press), forthcoming.
    • "Housewives as Home Safety Managers: the Changing Perception of the Home as a Place of Hazard and Risk, 1870-1940," in Roger Cooter and Bill Luckin (eds.), Accidents in History, in the Wellcome Institute Series in the History of Medicine (Rodopi, Amersterdam, 1995), forthcoming (with Mark Tebeau).
    • "The Evolution of the Manufactured Gas Industry and the Transition to Natural Gas in American Cities," in Olivier Coutard (ed.), Large Technical Systems and Networks: Interconnection Processes, Governance Issues, Conceptual Developments (P:aris: forthcoming).
    • "Search for a Sink for an Industrial Waste: Coke and the Environment," to be published in Char Miller & Hal Rothman, Field Notes: Essays in Environmental History - Selections from Twenty Years of the Environmental History Review (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, forthcoming). This is a reprint of an article originally published in the EHR in 1994.
    • "Public and Private Ownership and Financing of Infrastructure: Historical Perspectives," in Ashoka Mody (ed.), Private Initiative and the Public Good (Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, 1995), forthcoming (with Charles Jacobson).
    • "An Historical Reconstruction of Major Atmospheric Gaseous Emissions in the U.S., 1880-1980," in R.U. Ayres and Udo E. Simonis (eds.), Industrial Metabolism: Restructing for Sustainable Development (Tokyo: United Nations University, 1994), pp. 194-238 (with R.U. Ayres).
    • "Industrial Wastes and Municipal Water Supplies in the 1920s," in H. R. and A. D. Keating (eds.), Water and the City : The Next Century (Chicago: Public Works Historical Society, 1991), pp. 261-274.
    • "Infrastructure Cycles: A Comment on Peterson, "Is Infrastructure Undersupplied," in Alicia Munnell (ed.), Is There a Shortfall in Public Capital Investment (Boston:Federal Reserve Bank , 1991), pp. 136-142.
    • "Pollution Trends in the Hudson River and Raritan River Basins, 1790-1980," in B.L. Turner, et. al., (eds.), The Earth as Transformed by Human Action: Global and Regional Changes in the Biosphere over the Past 300 Years (New York: Cambridge University Press 1990), (with R.U. Ayres), pp. 623-640.
    • "Risks and Society: Some Historical Cases and Contemporary Comparisons," in Andrew Kirby (ed.), Nothing to Fear: An Examination of Risk and Hazard in American Society (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1990), pp. 77-99.
    • "Infrastructure and City Building in the 19th and 20th Centuries," in S. P. Hays (ed.), City at the Point: Essays in the Social History of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh: Univ.of Pittsburgh Press, 1989), pp. 213-264.
    • "Sewers and Cities in the United States, 1850-1930," in Joel A. Tarr and Gabriel Dupuy (eds.), Technology and the Rise of the Networked City in Europe and America, (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1988), pp. 159-185.
    • "Environmental Risk in Historical Perspective," in Brandon Johnson and Victor Covello (eds.), The Social and Cultural Construction of Risk, (Reidel Publications, 1987), pp. 317-344, (with Charles Jacobson.)
    • "The Nation's Most Liveable City: The Transformation of Pittsburgh." in Gary Gappert (ed.) The Future of Winter Cities (Los Angeles: Sage Publications, 1987), pp. 173-195 (with Brian Berry, Susan Sanderson, and Shelby Stewman).
    • "Patterns in the Development of the Urban Infrastructure," in Howard Gillette and Zane Miller (eds.), American Urbanism: A Historiographical Review (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1987), pp. 195-226 (with Josef Konvitz).
    • "Risk Perception in Waste Disposal: A Historical Review," in Julian B. Andelman & Dwight W. Underhill (eds.), Health Effects from Hazardous Wastes Sites, (Chelsea, Michigan: Lewis Publishing Co., 1986), pp. 81-94.
    • "Public-Private Partnerships in Pittsburgh," in Joel A. Tarr (ed.) Pittsburgh and Sheffield: Sister Cities Pittsburgh: Carnegie Mellon University 1986, pp. 141-182, (with S. Stewman).
    • "Building the Urban Infrastructure in the Nineteenth Century: An introduction," in Infrastructure and Urban Growth in the Nineteenth Century, Essays in Public Works History No. 14, Dec., 1985, pp. 61-85.
    • "The Search for the Ultimate Sink: Urban Air, Land, and Water Pollution in Historical Perspective," Records of the Columbia Historical Society of Washington, D.C., Vol. 51, The University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, 1984, pp. 1-29, reprinted in Kendall Bailes (ed.) Critical Issues in Environmental History, Boston, 1985, pp. 516-552.
    • "Historical Perspectives on Technological Regulation," in Henry R. Piehler (ed.), ASTM Workshop on Regulatory Alternatives and Supplement (Philadelphia, 1985), pp. 27-29.
    • "Historical Habitat Change in the Hudson-Raritan Estuary: Dredging, Landfill, and Submerged Aquatic Vegetation," in Anthony Pacheco (ed.), Fish and Bricks: Proceedings of the Walford Memorial Convocation, Sandy Hook Laboratory Technical Series Report No. 31, (1984), pp. 53-59, (with Charles Jacobson, Kevin McCauley, James McCurley III, and Donald Stevens).
    • "Historical Perspectives on Hazardous Wastes," in International Solid Wastes Association, Proceedings, 1984 (Philadelphia, 1984).
    • "The Evolution of the Urban Infrastructure in the 19th and 20th Centuries," Royce Hanson, (ed.), Perspectives on Urban Infrastructure, (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1984), pp. 4-66.
    • "Railroad Smoke Control: A Case Study in the Regulation of a Mobile Pollution Source," Mark Rose and George Daniels (eds.), Energy and Transport: Historical Perspectives on Policy Issues, (Sage Publications), 1982, pp. 71-92 (with K. Koons).
    • "Four Decades of Public-Private Partnerships in Pittsburgh," S. Fosler and R. Berger (eds.), in Public-Private Partnerships in American Cities (Lexington Books), 1982, pp. 59-127, (with S. Stewman).
    • "Applied History: New/Old Frontier for the Historical Discipline," Institute News (Newsletter of the North Carolina Institute of Applied History), Vol. 1, No. 3, October, 1982, reprinted as a Panel Resource Paper, National Society for Internships and Experimental Education.
    • "The Development of Wastewater Systems," in Martin V. Melosi (ed.), Pollution and Reform in American Cities, 1850-1930 Austin: University of Texas Press, 1980, pp. 59-82 (with Terry Yosie and James McCurley, III).


    I. Conferences Chaired
    • Co-Chair, Program Committee (with Samuel P. Hays), 1993 American Society for Environmental History Biennial Conference, Pittsburgh, PA.
    • Co-Director, Conference on "Les Reseaux Techniques Urbains Histoire Contemporaine," Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussees, Paris, France, December, 1983
    • Sister Cities Conference: Pittsburgh and Sheffield, England; Pittsburgh, November 19-20, 1981
    • Second Annual Conference on Public History, "History and Public Policy," Pittsburgh, April 18-20, 1980
    • Conference on "Technology Projection," Carnegie Mellon University, May 18,1978
    • Carnegie Mellon University Conference in Retrospective Technology Assessment, Champion, PA, December 11-13, 1976