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Scott Berkun
ScienceAGoGo

John H Lienhard

How Invention Begins

We like to have a clear picture of who invented what - the Wright brothers for the aeroplane, Edison for the light bulb and so on. In How invention begins John H Lienhard shows that this picture is often a myth. He looks at inventions such as the steam engine and the printing press, and shows how they proceeded through various stages, with the accepted inventor playing an important, but not overwhelming part. Lienhard also looks at 'the invention of invention' - how sometime around 1840 inventions stopped being a one-off thing, and became an accepted part of industry. If you're interested in how our modern world came about then you should give this book a try.

The history of technology can be a difficult subject with which to maintain the readers interest, but I felt that Lienhard managed to overcome this difficulty with his critical approach. I felt some of part II did lapse into jsut being a history of the development of the steam engine, but overall I found the book to be interesting and informative.

The last part of the book looks at the growth of education in the modern world - how the coming of cheaper books made knowledge much more widely available, and how this fitted into social movements of the last two centuries.

Amazon.com info
Hardcover 288 pages  
ISBN: 019530599X
Salesrank: 2550458
Weight:1.1 lbs
Published: 2006 Oxford University Press
Amazon price $9.94
Marketplace:New from $5.90:Used from $1.89
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Amazon.co.uk info
Hardcover 288 pages  
ISBN: 019530599X
Salesrank: 5522306
Weight:1.1 lbs
Published: 2006 OUP USA
Amazon price £17.99
Marketplace:New from £12.00:Used from £2.27
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Amazon.ca info
Hardcover 288 pages  
ISBN: 019530599X
Salesrank: 3144744
Weight:1.1 lbs
Published: 2006 Oxford University Press
Amazon price CDN$ 38.00
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 26.82:Used from CDN$ 2.72
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Product Description
Invention--that single leap of a human mind that gives us all we create. Yet we make a mistake when we call a telephone or a light bulb an invention, says John Lienhard. In truth, light bulbs, airplanes, steam engines--these objects are the end results, the fruits, of vast aggregates of invention. They are not invention itself.

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 processes, 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.