to light such a candle
Often the basic science precedes the technology, as in the case of Maxwell's equations leading to the development of radio. Sometimes it is the other way round, for instance a lot of work was done improving steam engines before the science of thermodynamics explained what was going on. These are two of the topics looked at in this book, which also include the invention of photography, how much the discovery of the electron made possible the development of electronics, and how X-ray scattering meant that the structure of large organic molecules could be found, leading to great advances in biology and medicine. There are also chapters on Michael Faraday and electric power and on the revolution in physics at the start of the 20th century. Laidler also discusses the changes in the organisation of science and the place of science in society.
So there's plenty of interest in this book, and it's suited to the reader without previous knowledge of the subjects dealt with. However, the history of technology is a difficult subject to write about, and I felt that Laidler didn't really manage to write the sort of book to enthuse it's readers about the subject - it's more the sort of book you'd find left on the shelves of a school library. But maybe I'm biased against this sort of book, so I'd suggest you check out some of the other reviews.