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- DescriptionWhy does techlogy change over time, how does it change, and what difference does it make? In this sweeping, ambitious look at a thousand years of Western experience, Robert Friedel argues that techlogical change comes largely through the pursuit of improvement -- the deep-rooted belief that things could be done in a better way. What Friedel calls the culture of improvement is manifested every day in the ways people carry out their tasks in life -- from tilling fields and raising children to waging war. Improvements can be ephemeral or lasting, and one person's improvement may t always be viewed as such by others. Friedel stresses the social processes by which we define what improvements are and decide which improvements will last and which will t. These processes, he emphasizes, have created both winners and losers in history. Friedel presents a series of narratives of Western techlogy that begin in the eleventh century and stretch into the twenty-first. Familiar figures from the history of invention are joined by others -- the Italian preacher who described the first eyeglasses, the dairywomen displaced from their control over cheesemaking, and the little-kwn engineer who first suggested a grand tower to Gustav Eiffel. Friedel traces techlogy from the plow and the printing press to the internal combustion engine, the transistor, and the space shuttle. Friedel also reminds us that faith in improvement can sometimes have horrific consequences, as improved weaponry makes warfare ever more deadly and the drive for improving human beings can lead to eugenics and even gecide. The most comprehensive attempt to tell the story of Western techlogy in many years, engagingly written and lavishly illustrated, A Culture of Improvement documents the ways in which the drive for improvement has shaped our modern world.
- Author BiographyRobert Friedel is Professor in the Department of History at the University of Maryland. He is the author of Pioneer Plastic: The Making and Selling of Celluloid, Edison's Electric Light, and Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty.
- PrizesShortlisted for Intercollegiate Studies Institute Henry Paolucci / Walter Bagehot Book Award 2008.
- Author(s)Robert Friedel
- PublisherMIT Press Ltd
- Date of Publication09/03/2010
- SubjectInventions & Technology: General Interest
- Place of PublicationCambridge, Mass.
- Country of PublicationUnited States
- ImprintMIT Press
- Content Note117 illus.
- Weight1044 g
- Width203 mm
- Height229 mm
- Spine25 mm
- Format DetailsTrade paperback (US)
- Interest AgeFrom 18
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