Book on Engineering in Korea Honored

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Gary Downey stands at a blackboard
Gary Downey helped found the field of engineering studies.

The Korean translation of Engineers for Korea, by Kyonghee Han and Gary Downey, an Alumni Distinguished Professor in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society, has been named a 2017 Sejong Book by the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism.

The certification, which honors books with “high value as academic texts and improve the public’s reading culture,” carries an award of ten million won — the equivalent of nearly $9,000 — to pay for distributing copies across the country.

Many schools and universities encourage students to read Sejong Books. The ministry established the Sejong competition in 1968 in honor of King Sejong the Great (1397–1450), known for his support of Korean identity through “science” (the investigation of things), Confucianism, and the creation of the Hangul alphabet.

For the 2017 competition, a committee of 85 scholars from prestigious universities and institutes ranked 625 books in the academic subcategory of technology and science. Engineers for Korea — which explores both the history of engineering in South Korea and what it means to be an engineer there today — was one of 49 books selected.

A past president of the Society for Social Studies of Science, Downey integrates the perspectives of engineering and anthropology to bridge the human and technical dimensions of society. His pioneering scholarship in the field of engineering studies has received broad recognition and support, including 17 National Science Foundation grants, a National Academy of Engineering grant, and a Boeing Company grant.

Since his initial appointment as an Alumni Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech in 2007, Downey has received several prestigious honors and awards, including the Outstanding Faculty Award of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, the Sterling Olmsted Award from the American Society for Engineering Education, and three named visiting professorships.