Michael Bess, Chancellor's Professor of History, is a specialist in twentieth-century Europe, with a particular interest in the social and cultural impacts of technological change. He is the author of three books: Choices Under Fire: Moral Dimensions of World War II (Knopf, 2006); The Light-Green Society: Ecology and Technological Modernity in France, 1960-2000 (2003), which won the George Perkins Marsh prize (2004) of the American Society for Environmental History and an Honorable Mention (2004) from the Pinkney Prize committee of the Society for French Historical Studies; and Realism, Utopia, and the Mushroom Cloud: Four Activist Intellectuals and Their Strategies for Peace, 1945-1989 (1993).
He is currently writing a research monograph entitled Icarus 2.0: Justice and Identity in a Bioengineered Civilization.
Bess has received fellowships or grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Institutes of Health / National Human Genome Research Institute, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Fulbright research grants program, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, and the University of California’s Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation.
Bess received his Ph.D from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1989, and has been teaching at Vanderbilt ever since. He teaches undergraduate courses on World War II, twentieth-century Europe, and Western Civilization, as well as specialized seminars on environmentalism, the boundaries of the human, or utopian thought. His graduate courses include a survey of the historiography on twentieth-century Europe, and a semester-long workshop to train graduate students for teaching history at the college level. Bess has been awarded the Jeffrey Nordhaus Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, the Ellen Gregg Ingalls Award for Excellence in Classroom Teaching and the Chair of Teaching Excellence.