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Creating the Twentieth Century: Technical Innovations of 1867-1914 and Their Lasting Impact

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Creating the Twentieth Century: Technical Innovations of 1867-1914 and Their Lasting Impact Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:


The greatest technical discontinuity in history took place between 1867 and 1914. This era was distinguished by the most extraordinary concatenation of a large number of scientific and technical advances the synergy of which produced bold and imaginative innovations as well as ingenious improvements of older ideas, by the rapidity with which these innovations were improved after their introduction, by their prompt commercial adoption and widespread diffusion, and by the extent of the resulting socio-economic impacts.

Even the most rudimentary list of these epoch-defining innovations must include telephones, sound recordings, light bulbs, practical typewriters, chemical pulp, and reinforced concrete for the pre-1880 years. The astonishing 1880s, the most inventive decade in history, brought reliable electric lights, electricity-generating plants, electric motors and trains, transformers, steam turbines, gramophone, popular photography, practical gasoline-fueled internal combustion engines, motorcycles, cars, aluminum production, crude oil tankers, air-filled rubber tires, steel-skeleton skyscrapers, and pre-stressed concrete. The 1890s saw Diesel engines, x-rays, movies, liquefaction of air, and the first wireless signals. And the period between 1900 and 1914 witnessed mass-produced cars, the first airplanes, tractors, radio broadcasts, vacuum diodes and triodes, tungsten light bulbs, neon lights, commom used of halftones in printing, stainless steel, air conditioning, and the Haber-Bosch synthesis of ammonia (with-out which at least 40% of humanity would not be alive).

Most of these innovations were greatly improved by subsequent research and development (this will be the topic of this book's companion volume, Transforming the 20th Century) and some were superseded. But no post-WWI period ever equaled the epoch-making impact of pre-1914 technical advances that created the very foundations of modern civilization. This interdisciplinary book systematically traces and explains the genesis, evolution and lasting consequences of this great technical saltation.

Book News Annotation:

Interdisciplinary scholar Smil (U. of Manitoba) examines the roots of today's advanced technologies and finds them nestling in the technologically astounding period from the end of the Civil War to the First World War. He traces back the genealogy of electricity, the internal combustion engine, new materials and syntheses, communications and information, and finds that one reason why they have become so much a part of us is because most of that "stuff" has become more or less a mental commodity, an entitlement, and a part of being "regular folk" in society. He concentrates on the period that caused the greatest discontinuity of all, that which brought us to accept a fantasy such as instant communication as completely normal and completely necessary.
Annotation 2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Book News Annotation:

Interdisciplinary scholar Smil (U. of Manitoba) examines the roots of today's advanced technologies and finds them nestling in the technologically astounding period from the end of the Civil War to the First World War. He traces back the genealogy of electricity, the internal combustion engine, new materials and syntheses, communications and information, and finds that one reason why they have become so much a part of us is because most of that "stuff" has become more or less a mental commodity, an entitlement, and a part of being "regular folk" in society. He concentrates on the period that caused the greatest discontinuity of all, that which brought us to accept a fantasy such as instant communication as completely normal and completely necessary. Annotation ©2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Synopsis:

The period between 1867 and 1914 remains the greatest watershed in human history since the emergence of settled agricultural societies: the time when an expansive civilization based on synergy of fuels, science, and technical innovation was born. At its beginnings in the 1870s were dynamite, the telephone, photographic film, and the first light bulbs. Its peak decade - the astonishing 1880s - brought electricity - generating plants, electric motors, steam turbines, the gramophone, cars, aluminum production, air-filled rubber tires, and prestressed concrete. And its post-1900 period saw the first airplanes, tractors, radio signals and plastics, neon lights and assembly line production. This book is a systematic interdisciplinary account of the history of this outpouring of European and American intellect and of its truly epochal consequences. It takes a close look at four fundamental classes of these epoch-making innovations: formation, diffusion, and standardization of electric systems; invention and rapid adoption of internal combustion engines; the unprecedented pace of new chemical syntheses and material substitutions; and the birth of a new information age. These chapters are followed by an evaluation of the lasting impact these advances had on the 20th century, that is, the creation of high-energy societies engaged in mass production aimed at improving standards of living.

About the Author

Vaclav Smil is Distinguished Professor at the University of Manitoba, and the author of 19 books, including Feeding the World (MIT Press, 2000), Enriching the Earth: Transformation of World Food Production (MIT Press 2001), and Energy at the Crossroads (MIT Press 2003).

Product Details

ISBN:
9780195168747
Author:
Smil, Vaclav
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Author:
null, Vaclav
Subject:
History
Subject:
Modern - 20th Century
Subject:
Technological innovations
Subject:
Modern - 19th Century
Subject:
Economics -- History.
Subject:
Technological innovations -- History.
Subject:
Engineering -- History.
Copyright:
Series Volume:
1
Publication Date:
June 2005
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
123 halftones
Pages:
368
Dimensions:
6.1 x 9 x 0.9 in 1.363 lb

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Related Subjects

Engineering » Engineering » History
History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » World History » 1650 to Present
History and Social Science » World History » General
Languages » ESL » General
Reference » Science Reference » General
Reference » Science Reference » Technology
Religion » Comparative Religion » General
Science and Mathematics » History of Science » General

Creating the Twentieth Century: Technical Innovations of 1867-1914 and Their Lasting Impact New Hardcover
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Product details 368 pages Oxford University Press - English 9780195168747 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , The period between 1867 and 1914 remains the greatest watershed in human history since the emergence of settled agricultural societies: the time when an expansive civilization based on synergy of fuels, science, and technical innovation was born. At its beginnings in the 1870s were dynamite, the telephone, photographic film, and the first light bulbs. Its peak decade - the astonishing 1880s - brought electricity - generating plants, electric motors, steam turbines, the gramophone, cars, aluminum production, air-filled rubber tires, and prestressed concrete. And its post-1900 period saw the first airplanes, tractors, radio signals and plastics, neon lights and assembly line production. This book is a systematic interdisciplinary account of the history of this outpouring of European and American intellect and of its truly epochal consequences. It takes a close look at four fundamental classes of these epoch-making innovations: formation, diffusion, and standardization of electric systems; invention and rapid adoption of internal combustion engines; the unprecedented pace of new chemical syntheses and material substitutions; and the birth of a new information age. These chapters are followed by an evaluation of the lasting impact these advances had on the 20th century, that is, the creation of high-energy societies engaged in mass production aimed at improving standards of living.
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