Bio


Robert McGinn is Professor (Teaching) of Management Science and Engineering, and of Science, Technology, and Society (STS). He received a B.S. in Unified Science and Engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology, a M.S. in mathematics at Stanford, and a Ph.D. in philosophy and humanities, also at Stanford. Apart from a year at Bell Laboratories in 1978-79, McGinn has been at Stanford since 1971.

McGinn's general research area is technology and society, a field devoted to study of social, cultural, ethical, and policy issues raised by contemporary developments in science and technology. His specific research area is ethics, science, and technology, a specialty within applied ethics devoted to study of ethical issues in the practice of contemporary engineering and science, and ethical issues raised by the diffusion of technical innovations into society.

McGinn's publications include Science, Technology, and Society (Prentice-Hall, 1991), and articles in scholarly journals such as Professional Ethics; Technology and Culture; Science, Technology, and Human Values; Science and Engineering Ethics; and Nanoethics. His new book, The Ethically Responsible Engineer: Concepts and Cases for Students and Professionals, will be published in October 2015 by John Wiley & Sons.

From 1995 to 2011, Prof. McGinn served as director or co-director of the Science, Technology, and Society (STS) Program at Stanford. He is a member of the STS Executive Board and coordinates the School of Engineering's Technology in Society (TIS) Requirement.

From 2004 to 2014, McGinn conducted research on ethical issues related to nanotechnology for the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN), for which he served as Ethics Investigator. He was also Social and Ethical Issues Coordinator for the Stanford Nanofabrication Facility (SNF). From 2004-07, he conducted a large-scale study of the views of researchers working in nanotech laboratories at thirteen U.S. universities about ethical issues related to their work. McGinn is currently analyzing the data from a 2013-2015 survey of SNF users about their beliefs about nanotechnology-related ethical issues.

McGinn has received research grants from the Mellon Foundation, the Marshall Fund, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 1996, he received the Stanford Tau Beta Pi Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. In 1997, he received the Dinkelspiel Award for Exceptional Contributions to Undergraduate Education and the Perin Award for Undergraduate Engineering Education.

Academic Appointments


  • Professor (Teaching), Management Science and Engineering
  • Professor (Teaching), Science, Technology and Society

Honors & Awards


  • Recipient, Dinkelspiel Award For Exceptional Contributions to Undergraduate Education (1997)
  • Recipient, Perin Award for Undergraduate Engineering Education (1997)
  • Tau Beta Pi Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, California Gamma Chapter, Stanford University (1996)
  • Phi Beta Kappa Undergraduate Teaching Prize, California Beta Chapter, Stanford University (1996)
  • Recipient, Norwegian Marshall Fund Grant for Visiting Faculty (1989)
  • Recipient, Andrew J. Mellon Foundation Faculty Research Grant (1977)
  • Recipient, National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend
  • Associate Member, Sigma Xi
  • Member, Tau Beta Pi

Professional Education


  • PhD, Stanford, Philosophy and Humanities (1970)
  • MS, Stanford, Mathematics (1965)
  • BS, Stevens Institute of Technology, Unified Science and Engineering (1963)

Current Research and Scholarly Interests


exploration of ethical issues related to nanotechnology

2014-15 Courses


All Publications


  • "Discernment and Denial: Nanotechnology Researchers’ Recognition of Ethical Responsibilities Related to Their Work" NanoEthics McGinn, R. 2013; 7 (2): 93-105
  • "Ethical Responsibilities of Nanotechnology Researchers: A Short Guide" NanoEthics McGinn, R. 2010; 4 (1): 1-12
  • "What Is Different, Ethically, About Nanotechnology? Foundational Questions and Answers" NanoEthics McGinn, R. 2010; 4 (2): 115-128
  • "Ethics and Nanotechnology: Views of Nanotechnology Researchers" NanoEthics McGinn, R. 2008; 2 (2): 101-131
  • "'Mind the Gaps': An Empirical Approach to Engineering Ethics, 1997-2001" Science and Engineering Ethics McGinn, R. 2003; 9 (3): 1-26
  • What Makes Safety In the Nanotech Lab an ‘Ethical Issue’? Robert, M. 2011
  • "The Art of the Invisible: Achievements, Social Benefits, and Challenges of Nanotechnology” Frontiers of Knowledge Tiwari, S., McGinn, R. Fundación BBVA. 2008: 93-101
  • "Ethical Issues in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology: Reflections and Suggestions" Nanotechnology: Social Implications II -- Individual Perspectives McGinn, R. Springer. 2006: 169-172
  • Ethical Issues in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology: Reflections and Suggestions Nanotechnology: Social Implications II - Individual Perspectives McGinn, R. edited by Roco, Mihail, C., Bainbridge, William, S. Springer. 2006: 169-172
  • "Ethical Issues Faced By Water Professionals: Some Tools for Analysis" Navigating Rough Waters: Ethical Issues in the Water Industry McGinn, R. E. American Water Works Association. 2001: 17-37
  • Navigating Rough Waters: Ethical Issues in the Water Industry edited by McGinn, Robert, E., Davis, Cheryl, K. American Water Works Association, Denver. 2001
  • Foundational Issues and Future Directions Navigating Rough Waters: Ethical Issues in the Water Industry McGinn, R., Davis, C. American Water Works Association, Denver. 2001: 381-394
  • Ethical Issues Faced By Water Professionals: Some Tools for Analysis Navigating Rough Waters: Ethical Issues in the Water Industry McGinn, R. American Water Works Association, Denver. 2001: 17-37
  • Expectations and Experiences of Ethical Issues in Engineering: A Survey of Stanford Engineering Students and Practicing Engineers Online Ethics Center For Engineering and Science McGinn, R. 1999
  • "Optimization, Option Disclosure, and Problem Redefinition: Derivative Moral Obligations of Engineers and the Case of the Composite-Material Bicycle" Professional Ethics McGinn, R. 1997; 6 (1): 5-25
  • "The Engineer's Right to Reputational Fairness" Science and Engineering Ethics McGinn, R. 1995; 1 (3): 217-230
  • "Technology, Demography, and the Anachronism of Traditional Rights" Journal of Applied Philosophy McGinn, R. 1994; 11 (1): 57-70
  • "The Built Environment: Recent Developments, Issues, and Policy Initiatives" Ecology, Industrial Relations, and Business McGinn, R. Fundacion BBV. 1993: 155-186
  • Science, Technology, and Society Foundations of Sociology McGinn, R. E. Prentice-Hall. 1990
  • "Stokowski and Bell Telephone Laboratories: Collaboration in the Development of High Fidelity Sound Reproduction" Technology and Culture McGinn, R. 1983; 24 (1): 38-75
  • "Verwandlungen von Nietzsches Uebermenchen in der Literatur des Mittelmeerraumes" Nietzsche Studien McGinn, R. 1982; 10-11: 597-614
  • "The Anatomy of Modern Technology: Prolegomenon to Improved Public Policy for the Social Management of Technology" Daedalus McGinn, R., Hannay, N. B. 1980; 109 (Winter): 25-54
  • "Nietzsche on Technology" Journal of the History of Ideas McGinn, R. 1980; 41 (3): 80-92
  • "In Defense of Intangibles: the Feasibility-Responsibility Dilemma in Modern Technological Innovation" Science, Technology, and Human Values McGinn, R. 1979; 29: 4-10
  • "What is Technology?" Research in Philosophy and Technology McGinn, R. 1978; 1: 179-197
  • "The Problem of Scale in Human Life" Research in Philosophy and Technology McGinn, R. 1978; 1: 39-52
  • "Nietzsche's BIRTH OF TRAGEDY as Culture Criticism" Nietzsche Studien McGinn, R. 1975; 4: 75-138
  • "Energy and Ethics" Stanford Journal of International Studies McGinn, R. E. 1974; 9: 246-264
  • "Prestige and the Logic of Political Argument" The Monist McGinn, R. E. 1972; 56 (1): 100-115
  • "About Face" Social Theory and Practice McGinn, R. 1971; 1 (3): 87-96