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Topping the list is electrification. More than half of the "Top 20" would not have been possible without it. Abundant and available electric power helped spur America's economic development and distributed benefits widely, from cities to farms. This achievement clearly shines as an example of how engineering has changed the world.
But often we take the likes of air conditioning and refrigeration for granted even though they have significantly improved our sense of comfort and contributed to our physical health, giving us the ability to transport and extend the shelf life of food. Radio and television are so much more than mere entertainment devices. Indeed, they have changed the way we view the world and our place in it. The telephone has made the whole planet a smaller but much more connected place for all of us. And underlying and enabling many of these technologies is the computer – from room-sized super computers to palm-sized devices.
Each chapter tells the life story of a specific engineering achievement. Each chapter also features a personal reflection by a notable engineer involved with the achievement. Among them: Bill Gates, who brought the personal computer into our home; Charles Townes, inventor of the laser; Robert Kahn, one of the originators of the Internet; Bill Anders, the Gemini 8 astronaut who took the famous "Earthrise" photograph while in lunar orbit; and Wilson Greatbatch, inventor of the pacemaker. The engineers' commentaries capture the excitement, imagination, vision, and tenacity that ultimately made each achievement a reality. Timelines trace the evolution of the achievements while dramatic illustrations depict how things actually work. Replete with photographs and drawings, the drama of invention and discovery is brought vividly to life.
More than a simple tally of engineering achievements, A Century of Innovation is proof positive that the genius and the talent of the world's engineers have truly transformed the way people live.