The first digital electronic computer, the ENIAC, was over 100 feet long, with 18,000 simultaneously functioning vacuum tubes. Now virtually every business and home in America has its own compact PC. In 1903 the Wright brothers' airplane, held together with baling wire and glue, traveled a couple hundred yards. Today fleets of streamlined jets transport millions of people per day to cities worldwide. Between discovery and application, between invention and widespread use, there is a world of innovation, of tinkering and improvements and adaptations. This is the world David Mowery and Nathan Rosenberg map out in Paths of Innovation, a tour of the intersecting routes of the technological.
"Rosenberg and Mowery are among the nation's premier historians of technical change. They relate the sagas of four technologies--the internal combustion engine, the chemical industry, electric power, and the electronics revolution that followed the invention of the transistor in 1947--and look for patterns that repeat among the details that do not." Boston Globe
This small volume details the laborious, painstaking ways in which technological innovation occurs in America, focusing on the development of four giants: the internal combustion engine, chemicals, electric power, and the electronics revolution. Mowery and Rosenberg, coauthors of Technology and the Pursuit of Economic Growth (Cambridge Univ., 1989), are particularly interested here in the "intense period of imaginative design" that lies between the scientific idea and the ultimate product in a particular field. This somewhat scholarly though nonetheless readable work, loaded with not-too-cumbersome footnotes, citations, tables, and graphs, includes ample discussion of the role of universities and the federal government in the research and development (R&D) that led to the success of the four giants, as well as the general importance of R&D in a technological society. Recommended for academic libraries.--Robert Ballou, Atlanta, GA.
1. Introduction; 2. The organization and institutionalization of innovation, 1900–1940; 3. The internal combustion engine; 4. Chemicals; 5. Electric power; 6 The electronics revolution, 1947–1990; 8. Concluding observations.