Inventing Modern

Inventing Modern : Growing Up with X-rays, Skyscrapers and Tailfins

3.78 (33 ratings by Goodreads)
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Modern is a word much used, but hard to pin down. In Inventing Modern, John H. Lienhard uses that word to capture the furious rush of newness in the first half of 20th-century America. An unexpected world emerges from under the more familiar Modern. Beyond the airplanes, radios, art deco, skyscrapers, Fritz Lang's Metropolis, Buck Rogers, the culture of the open road-Burma Shave, Kerouac, and White Castles-lie driving forces that set this account of Modern apart. One force, says Lienhard, was a new concept of boyhood-the risk-taking, hands-on savage inventor. Driven by an admiration of recklessness, America developed its technological empire with stunning speed. Bringing the airplane to fruition in so short a time, for example, were people such as Katherine Stinson, Lincoln Beachey, Amelia Earhart, and Charles Lindbergh. The rediscovery of mystery powerfully drove Modern as well. X-Rays, quantum mechanics, and relativity theory had followed electricity and radium. Here we read how, with reality seemingly altered, hope seemed limitless. Lienhard blends these forces with his childhood in the brave new world. The result is perceptive, engaging, and filled with surprise.Whether he talks about Alexander Calder (an engineer whose sculptures were exercises in materials science) or that wacky paean to flight, Flying Down to Rio, unexpected detail emerges from every tile of this large mosaic. Inventing Modern is a personal book that displays, rather than defines, an age that ended before most of us were born. It is an engineer's homage to a time before the bomb and our terrible loss of confidence-a time that might yet rise again out of its own postmodern more

Product details

  • Hardback | 304 pages
  • 161 x 242.8 x 26.7mm | 594.22g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • numerous halftones
  • 0195160320
  • 9780195160321

Review quote

"From Buck Rogers to the Chrysler Airflow, Lienhard considers a particular strain of American Modernism through the personal lens of his own boyhood. While this book reflects a fascination with how things work, it also is a memoir, replete with subjective, idiosyncratic and deeply nostalgic associations."--Los Angeles Times"A delightful personal memoir, a provocative cultural history, and an instructive guide to science and technology--a splendid book that entertains, challenges and informs in equal measure."--Samuel C. Florman, author of The Existential Pleasures of Engineering"This is vintage Lienhard: intellectually cosmopolitan and curious, wide-ranging and almost breathless, with an ability to knit together events and people into a mosaic that, like all good history, is greater than the sum of its parts, and all in a voice that is so rhythmical that the reader is drawn along almost involuntarily."--Richard J. Blackett, Andrew Jackson Professor of History, Vanderbilt University"Lienhard is a story-teller who informs and enchants. His book carries us on a riveting journey with twentieth-century technologies that created the worldview called modernity. In learning about these roots of modern, we learn about ourselves."--Stanley Joel Reiser, Griff T. Ross Professor of Humanities and Technology in Health Care at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston" 'A good read' is not the first phrase that comes to mind in discussing most academic books, but in this case, it is well-deserved praiseA more fascinating, informative, or enjoyable introduction to science, technology, and modern science would be hard to imagine."--Choiceshow more

About John H. Lienhard

John H. Lienhard is the M.D. Anderson Emeritus Professor of Mechanical Engineering and History at the University of Houston. He has worked as an engineer and educator since 1951, and is well known in thermal engineering. He has also written about, and taught, history since the 1970s. He is the author and host of The Engines of Our Ingenuity, a weekday radio essay on the history of creativity and invention (heard on many public radio stations), and he is author of the book by the same more

Rating details

33 ratings
3.78 out of 5 stars
5 18% (6)
4 48% (16)
3 27% (9)
2 6% (2)
1 0% (0)
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