Leo Marx (November 15, 1919 – March 8, 2022) was an American historian, literary critic, and educator. He was Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is known for his works in the field of American studies. Marx studied the relationship between technology and culture in 19th and 20th century America.
Leo Marx was born on November 15, 1919, in New York City, to Leo and Theresa (Rubinstein) Marx. His father worked in the estate sales business and his mother was a homemaker. He grew up in New York City and Paris; his father died when Leo was a child. He graduated from Harvard University with a BA in history and literature in 1941.[a] Military service in World War II followed, in the South Pacific. Marx returned to Harvard afterwards and got a PhD in 1950, one of the first to be granted in the History of American Civilization.
From 1976 to 2015, Marx was the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of American Cultural History at MIT. He changed his teaching style accordingly, since students at MIT were more interested in technology than in literature. Marx added environmental studies to his repertoire. After retirement in 1990, he continued on as a senior lecturer until 2015.
In 1964, Marx published The Machine in the Garden. The book explores 19th century American literature and its contrast of the pastoral ideal with the rapid changes caused by emerging technology. Marx called the style the "interrupted idyll". The book was based upon a thesis Marx began at Harvard and took 15 years to finish. It is seen as a major, foundational work in the field of American studies.