How Invention Begins

How Invention Begins : Echoes of Old Voices in the Rise of New Machines

3.73 (15 ratings by Goodreads)
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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.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 156 x 230 x 18mm | 458.13g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • numerous halftones and figures
  • 0195341201
  • 9780195341201
  • 1,457,415

About John H. Lienhard

John H. Lienhard is M.D. Anderson Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering and of History at the University of Houston. He is the author and host of "The Engines of Our Ingenuity," a daily radio essay on invention and creativity heard nationally on Public Radio and internationally on the Armed Forces Network. He is also the author of the book The Engines of Our Ingenuity: An Engineer Looks at Technology and Culture. Books by the same author: Inventing Modern The Engines of Our Ingenuityshow more

Review quote

Lienhard is enthralled with invention, how it happens and how inventions both shape and are shaped by culture. He posits that the quest for a single canonical inventor of a new technology is illusory, because all inventions are the sum of many contributors. To make his point, Lienhard (host of public radio's The Engines of Our Ingenuity ) traces the development of airplanes and steam engines, among other technologies, in a lucid style filled with interesting forays into origins and biography.... The author's personality permeates his writing, and it's impossible not to admire his optimism, his far-reaching knowledge and his enthusiasm for learning. * Publishers Weekly *show more

Rating details

15 ratings
3.73 out of 5 stars
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2 13% (2)
1 0% (0)
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