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How Invention Begins: Echoes of Old Voices in the Rise of New Machines
     

How Invention Begins: Echoes of Old Voices in the Rise of New Machines

by John H. Lienhard
 

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In How Invention Begins, Lienhard reconciles the ends of invention with the individual leaps upon which they are built, illuminating the vast web of individual inspirations that lie behind whole technologies. He traces, for instance, the way in which thousands of people applied their combined inventive genius to airplanes, railroad engines, and automobiles.

Overview

In How Invention Begins, Lienhard reconciles the ends of invention with the individual leaps upon which they are built, illuminating the vast web of individual inspirations that lie behind whole technologies. He traces, for instance, the way in which thousands of people applied their combined inventive genius to airplanes, railroad engines, and automobiles. As he does so, it becomes clear that a collective desire, an upwelling of fascination, a spirit of the times--a Zeitgeist--laid its hold upon inventors. The thing they all sought to create was speed itself. Likewise, Lienhard shows that when we trace the astonishingly complex technology of printing books, we come at last to that which we desire from books--the knowledge, the learning, that they provide. Can we speak of speed or education as inventions? To do so, he concludes, is certainly no greater a stretch than it is to call radio or the telephone an "invention." Throughout this marvelous volume, Lienhard illuminates these webs of insight or inspiration by weaving a fabric of anecdote, history, and technical detail--all of which come together to provide a full and satisfying portrait of the true nature of invention.

Editorial Reviews

University of Houston professor Dr. John Lienhard doesn't want us to think of telephones, light bulbs, or railroad engines as inventions. The popular NPR host of The Engines of Our Ingenuity conceives of these modern wonders as end rewards of vast aggregates of invention. How Invention Begins presents the history of new machines as the incremental orchestration of individual genius and the triumph of the zeitgeist. Lienhard's keen sense of scientific marvels is balanced by his engineer's love of telling details. An exploration of scientific breakthroughs unlike any other.
Publishers Weekly
Lienhard is enthralled with invention, how it happens and how inventions both shape and are shaped by culture. He posits that the quest for a single canonical inventor of a new technology is illusory, because all inventions are the sum of many contributors. To make his point, Lienhard (professor emeritus of mechanical engineering and history at the University of Houston and host of public radio's The Engines of Our Ingenuity) traces the development of airplanes and steam engines, among other technologies, in a lucid style filled with interesting forays into origins and biography. But the author is also fascinated by what is best described as the invention of the spread of knowledge. The second half of the book is an examination of how Gutenburg's printing press began a worldwide explosion of knowledge that traces its roots to the incunabula, books written between 1455 and 1500, and ends with the mass production of books for popular consumption. Lienhard also pays tribute to the development of the public library, museums, correspondence courses and universities as means of education. The author's personality permeates his writing, and it's impossible not to admire his optimism, his far-reaching knowledge and his enthusiasm for learning. 120 illus. (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"Watt's genius was in devising a practical engine; Lienhard's genius is in telling the real story of invention."—New Scientist Magazine

"Lienhard is enthralled with invention, how it happens and how inventions both shape and are shaped by culture. He posits that the quest for a single canonical inventor of a new technology is illusory, because all inventions are the sum of many contributors. To make his point, Lienhard (host of public radio's The Engines of Our Ingenuity) traces the development of airplanes and steam engines, among other technologies, in a lucid style filled with interesting forays into origins and biography.... The author's personality permeates his writing, and it's impossible not to admire his optimism, his far-reaching knowledge and his enthusiasm for learning."—Publishers Weekly

"Lienhard, a graceful and perceptive writer, has produced a popular book that may well seduce the general public away from receieved hero myths without denigrating those myths."—Technology and Culture

"This is an admirable book, of the sort I easily admire and would like to have written myself, if only I had the skill. Poised and lyrical prose supporting clear thinking and graceful presentation of a provocative and profound analysis of technological history."—Science Besieged

"This complete tour de force journey through the history of technology includes many philosophical observations, and is not at all technocratic in tone. It might well help to inspire the art of engineering to move away from its present static recycling."—Engine

"[Lienhard] has read widely and ecumenically, putting his findings together in unexpected, often delightful ways."—Dr. Arthur P. Molella

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199885565
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
07/14/2006
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
1,087,820
File size:
7 MB

Meet the Author

John H. Lienhard is M.D. Anderson Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering and of History at the University of Houston. He is the author and host of "The Engines of Our Ingenuity," a daily radio essay on invention and creativity heard nationally on Public Radio and internationally on the Armed Forces Network. He is also the author of the book The Engines of Our Ingenuity: An Engineer Looks at Technology and Culture. Books by the same author: Inventing Modern The Engines of Our Ingenuity

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