Dr. Michael Adas was born in Detroit in 1943 and attended WMU from 1961-65. He majored in history and world religions and graduated Summa Cum Laude. He credits the exceptional opportunities for global travel and contacts with renowned scholars and leaders provided by the Honors College, then directed by Samuel Clark, and model professors, especially former Department of History chair, Dr. Ernst Breisach, for inspiring and making it possible for him to win generous support to pursue a career teaching and writing history. Adas' ability, added to the foundation provided by his fine teachers at WMU, and led him to pursue graduate work at the University of Wisconsin at Madison where he earned two M.A. degrees and, in 1970, a Ph.D. in global history with a focus on South and Southeast Asia.
Not surprisingly, given his remarkable progress in graduate school, Adas landed a job the year he graduated and taught at Rutgers University from 1970 until his retirement in 2015. His scholarly focus has remained on globalization. However, while he originally studied European colonialism in Southeast Asia and comparative studies of peasant protest in the non-Western world, he now focuses on European and American colonialism and the forces contributing to Western dominance and non-Western resistance in the last 500 years.
While at Rutgers, Adas earned the respect and appreciation of his students and peers and was twice recognized for his contributions to teaching, earning the Warren Susman Teaching Award in 1988 and the Rutgers Teacher of the Year Award in 1992. He is also the author, editor, or co-editor of over a dozen books and countless articles, and has been recognized for his work with numerous prizes and nominations.
He was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1984-85, and his book on Machines as the Measure of Men: Science, Technology and Ideologies of Western Dominance (1st ed. 1989) was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award in 1989; and was awarded the New Jersey NEH Prize in 1990 and the Dexter Prize in 1991. Machines as the Measure has appeared in four foreign language editions, and a 25th anniversary edition was recently published. In 2012 he was awarded the international Toynbee Prize for his “significant and public contributions to humanity and global history.” In 2015 Adas retired from teaching at Rutgers as the Abraham E. Voorhees Professor of History and a Board of Governors Chair. His research and writing continue in a coauthored book on the Vietnam War from both American and Vietnamese perspectives and a comparative study titled Misbegotten Wars and the Decline of Great Powers: Britain, America and a Century of Violence.
The Department of History was pleased to welcome him back to campus and to recognize his accomplishments by naming him our 2015 Alumni Achievement recipient.