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Distinguished Historian

The Ohio Academy of History has selected history professor John Heitmann as its Distinguished Historian for 2019. He will receive the award Friday, March 22, at the academy’s annual conference.

The award is presented for “accomplishments and service to the discipline.” Heitmann will also deliver a talk during the event.

A UD professor since 1984, Heitmann is a nationally recognized expert on the history of the automobile in America. He has taught courses in the history of science and technology and environmental history.

Heitmann released the second edition of his book, The Automobile and American Life, in August 2018. Originally published in 2009, the book explores the history of the automobile and its development as one of the most influential technologies of the 20th century. In the updated edition, Heitmann includes a new chapter that focuses on technological and economic changes in the automobile industry during the 1970s.

In 2014, Heitmann and Rebecca Morales published Stealing Cars: Technology and Society from the Model T to the Gran Torino, a book that examined the history of motor vehicle theft.

Heitmann’s media appearances have included ABC News Tonight and CNN International, among other outlets. In August, he was quoted in a Wall Street Journal article about declining U.S. manufacturing of the sedan.

Juan Santamarina, associate professor and Department of History chair, praised Heitmann’s work connecting the relationships between humans and machines in a September article for the College of Arts and Sciences.

“While Dr. Heitmann’s recent work is centered on automobiles and technology, it’s the humanity of those that use the technology and the interaction between humans and machines that interest him most,” Santamarina said. “Within the field of automotive history his work is so valuable because of his focus on people and humanity."

At UD, Heitmann is active within numerous departmental, college and University committees, and served as chair of the Department of History between 1991 and 1995. He is a past Alumni Chair in the Humanities.

In his leisure time, Heitmann continues to restore a 1971 Porsche 911T Targa and plays tennis in USTA leagues.

“An extremely active scholar and teacher, a perennially curious mind, and mentor to many, Dr. Heitmann's career has been an exemplary model for teachers and students alike,” Santamarina said.

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