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John Heitmann

Professor Emeritus

Full-Time Faculty

College of Arts and Sciences: History


Email: John Heitmann
HM 433


  • Ph.D., History of Science, Johns Hopkins University, 1983


Starting at the University of Dayton in 1984, Professor Heitmann taught a wide variety of courses in the history of science and technology and environmental history. Heitmann served as chair of the Department of History between 1991 and 1995. He has an active research agenda exploring connection between science, technology and religion, and additionally pursues topics related to the history of the automobile. In his leisure time, he continues to restore a 1971 Porsche 911T Targa and plays tennis in USTA leagues. Professor Heitmann is the past Alumni Chair in the Humanities.

Faculty perspective

"My purpose is to instill in students an appreciation for history, a desire for them to achieve balance in life, and an enhanced sense of self understanding that leads to personal growth."

Courses taught

  • HST 103
  • HST 341
  • HST 342
  • HST 343
  • HST 344

Professional activities

  • Former President and Board Member, Society of Automotive Historians
  • Popular Culture Association
  • American Historical Association
  • Historic Vehicle Association

Research interests

  • History of science and technology
  • Science, technology, and religion
  • History of the automobile

Selected publications

With James T. Uhlman, “Stealing Freedom: Auto Theft and Autonomous Identity in American Film,” Journal of Popular Culture, 48 (February, 2015), 86-101.

With Rebecca Morales. Stealing Cars: Technology and Society from the Model T to the Gran Torino. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014.

“Sports Cars.” World Book Encyclopedia, 2012.

“The Automobile – Economic Impact”; “Automobiles and Society;” “Automobiles and the Environment;” “Automobiles – History;”:Ransom Eli Olds;” “William Richard Morris, Lord Nuffield,” World Book Encyclopedia, 2010.

Consultant Editor, with M.J. York, Henry Ford. Minneapolis: Essential Library, 2010.

The Automobile and American Life (Jefferson, NC and London: McFarland, 2009). Named one of Choice’s outstanding Titles for 2009. Awarded the Ray and Pat Browne Best Reference Work for 2010, Popular Culture Association.

“World War II Enemy Alien Case Study,” in Treatment of Latin Americans of Japanese Descent, European Americans, and Jewish Refugees During World War II, Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law of the Committee on the Judiciary House of Representatives, March 19, 2009 (Washington: GPO, 2009), pp.98-101

“Your Mileage May Differ: The Mobilgas Economy Runs, 1936-1968,” Automotive History Review, 50 (Fall, 2008), 20-26.

“Automobile Industry,” “Auto Racing,” “Drive-by Shootings,” “Thelma and Louise,” all in The Nineties in America (Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press, 2009), forthcoming.

“Rolls Royce Declares Bankruptcy,” and “Daimler-Benz Buys Chrysler,” in Great Events from History, 1971-2000 (Pasadena, Calif., Salem Press, 2008), 57-9; 3108-9.

"The Rickenbacker Motor Car Company,” in The American Midwest, Richard Sisson, Christian Zacher and Andrew Cayton, eds. (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 2007), p. 1421.

“Detention and Internment,” in Here in America? Immigrants as “The Enemy” During WWII and Today, Helen Zia, ed., (San Francisco, National Japanese American Historical Society, 2006).

“Mont Blanc Tunnel,” in Great Events in History: The Twentieth Century, 1941-1970 (Pasadena, Calif., Salem Press, 2007), 2269-71.

"Sugar Industry in the South." In The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 2nd Edition, 2007), v.3.

“Automobiles and Auto Manufacturing,” and “Ford Thunderbird,” in The Fifties in America (Pasadena, Calif., Salem Press, 2005), I, pp. 81-5, 358-9.

“The ILO and the Regulation of White Lead in Britain During the Interwar Years: An Examination of International and National Campaigns in Occupational Health,” Labour History Review (Great Britain), 69 (December 2004), 267-284.

"Doing 'True Science:' The Early History of the Institutum Divi Thomas, 1935-1951" The Catholic Historical Review, 88(2002), 702-721.

With Larry Schweikart, "Research at the University of Dayton," In (Dayton, OH, UD, 2000),103-132.

"The Beginnings of Big Sugar in Florida, 1920-1945," Florida Historical Quarterly, 77 (Summer, 1998), 39-61.

"The Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Sugar Industry in Lafourche Country," in The Lafourche Country II: The Heritage and Its Keepers, ed. By Stephen S. Michot and John P. Doucet (Thibodaux, La., 1996), 96-102.

Selected presentations

“Bill Grauer and Riverside Records: A Jazz Label Captures the Sounds of Sports and Race Cars, 1956-1962,” Popular Culture Association annual Meeting, Indianapolis, March 31, 2018.

“When a Car Matters: Teaching Automotive History,” Historical Vehicle Association History Symposium, Allentown, Pa., Oct. 22, 2016.

“Cars, Films, and College Kids: Teaching the History of the Automobile in Film,” Popular Culture Association Annual Meeting, April 1, 2015.

“Stealing Freedom: Automobile Anti-Theft Deterrents, Criminal Countermeasures, and Technological Change, 1900-1941,” Society of the History of Technology, Dearborn, Mich., Nov. 8, 2014.

“Stealing Cars,” Washington and Lee University, May 13, 2014.

“Automobile Theft Deterrent Technologies: Stopping the Joyrider, 1900-1940.” Society of Automotive Historians Biennial History Conference, Stanford University, April 10, 2014

"From Love Affair to Troubled Marriage: 1973 and the American Automobile Industry," Stars Lecture, University of Dayton, Sept. 19, 2013.

"The Golden Age of the Automobile in America," Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, Aug. 1, 2013.

"Industrialism in America," Ohio Historical Society, July 23, 2013.

“Beyond Regulation,” Discussant, Business History Conference, Columbus, March 23, 2013.

“The Automobile Industry and Organized Labor: A History,” Ohio Historical Center, Jan. 30, 2013.

“Stealing Cars: Some International Aspects of Automobile Theft, the United States and Mexico, 1919-2011.” Society of Automotive Historians Biennial conference, Philadelphia, April 12, 2012.

"Stealing Cars: Technology and Society from the Model T to Today," Ohio Academy of History Fall Meeting, Keynote Dinner Address, Dayton, Oct. 15, 2011.

“Why the Humanities in a Flat World,” 11th Annual Humanities Conference, June 8, 2011, Granada, Spain.

“Stealing Cars: Technology and Society from the Model T to Today,” University of San Diego History Department Colloquium, April 19, 2011.

“Economy and Performance: Engineering, Competition, and the Mobil/Gilmore Economy Runs,” Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress, Detroit, April 14, 2011.

“Why the Humanities in a Flat World,” Knapp Chair Lecture, University of San Diego, April 5, 2011.

“The American Automobile Industry and the ‘Eisenhower Recession’ of 1957-8,” Society of Automotive Historians Biennial Meeting, Tupelo, Miss., March 24-26, 2010.

“From Golden Age to Crisis: the Automobile in America, 1950-2010,” Buckhorn Distinguished Lecture Series, Baldwin-Wallace College, Cleveland, March 16, 2010.

Chair and Organizer of Session, “New Directions in the History of the Automobile in America,” American Historical Association Annual Meeting, San Diego,, Jan. 9, 2010.

“Writing The Automobile and American Life,” Detroit Public Library, National Automotive History Collection, Nov. 21, 2009.

“Pluralism, Diversity, and Contemporary Car Culture in America,” Invited Lecture to BMW Management, Leipzig, June 15, 2009.

“The Golden Age of the Automobile in America,” Invited Lecture to BMW Management, Leipzig, May 18, 2009.

“Tailfins, Chrome, and the American Automobile Industry during the 1950s,” Keynote, Phi Alpha Theta Regional Conference, Dayton, March 21, 2009.

“Perspectives on a Course on the History of the Automobile,” The Automobile and American Culture Symposium, Youngstown State University Centennial Celebration, April 26, 2008.

“Your Mileage May Differ: The Mobilgas Economy Runs, 1936-1968,” Society of Automotive Historians Biennial Meeting, Nashville, April 3, 2008.

“Latent Meanings: Gender, Sexuality, the Automobile, and American Poetry,” Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association, Boston, April 4-7, 2007.