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    A Culture of Improvement: Technology and the Western Millennium (Paperback) By (author) Robert Friedel

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    DescriptionWhy does technology 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 technological 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 not 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 not. These processes, he emphasizes, have created both winners and losers in history.Friedel presents a series of narratives of Western technology 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-known engineer who first suggested a grand tower to Gustav Eiffel. Friedel traces technology 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 genocide. The most comprehensive attempt to tell the story of Western technology 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.


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  • Full bibliographic data for A Culture of Improvement

    Title
    A Culture of Improvement
    Subtitle
    Technology and the Western Millennium
    Authors and contributors
    By (author) Robert Friedel
    Physical properties
    Format: Paperback
    Number of pages: 600
    Width: 193 mm
    Height: 221 mm
    Thickness: 28 mm
    Weight: 998 g
    Language
    English
    ISBN
    ISBN 13: 9780262514019
    ISBN 10: 026251401X
    Classifications

    B&T Book Type: NF
    BIC E4L: TEC
    Nielsen BookScan Product Class 3: T8.9
    B&T Modifier: Subject Development: 01
    BIC subject category V2: TBX, TBY
    BISAC V2.8: HIS037000
    B&T General Subject: 710
    Warengruppen-Systematik des deutschen Buchhandels: 26820
    BISAC V2.8: TEC056000, TEC057000
    LC classification: T
    Ingram Subject Code: TE
    Libri: I-TE
    Abridged Dewey: 609
    B&T Merchandise Category: UP
    DC22: 303.483
    BISAC V2.8: HIS039000
    Thema V1.0: NHTB, TBX, TBY
    Illustrations note
    117 illus.
    Publisher
    MIT Press Ltd
    Imprint name
    MIT Press
    Publication date
    30 April 2010
    Publication City/Country
    Cambridge, Mass.
    Author Information
    Robert 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.
    Review quote
    "By virtue of its range, quality, length (nearly 600 pages) and comprehensiveness, Robert Friedel's book will go to the top of the list as the standard text for an introductory Charlemagne-to-George-Bush course on the history of technology." Times Higher Education Supplement "A rare, detailed, nontheoretical survey that exposes the veins of invention that run through Western culture, creating an astonishing picture of achievement through its careful accumulation of small details. Under Mr. Friedel's firm touch it begins to be possible to feel something like the primal pulse of this culture." Edward Rothstein The New York Times "Friedel's dazzling tour de force describes almost every aspect of technology." Joel Mokyr Journal of Interdisciplinary History "Robert Friedel... can not only impart the lesser-known details of a familiar story but masterfully show how strange and wonderful it is that things happened the way they did." Adam Keiper The Wall Street Journal "[Robert Friedel] can not only impart the lesser-known details of a familiar story but masterfully show how strange and wonderful it is that things happened the way they did." Wall Street Journal "...[T]his book is also a rare, detailed, nontheoretical survey that exposes the veins of invention that run through Western culture, creating an astonishing picture of achievement through its careful accumulation of small details. Mr. Friedel surveys the kinds of inventions and technologies that developed in the West over centuries, compiling a roster of innovation that encompasses everything from textiles to time telling. Under his firm touch it begins to be possible to feel something like the primal pulse of this culture." Edward Rothstein The New York Times