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

Paperback | July 1, 2008

byJohn H. Lienhard

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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 combinedinventive 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 showsthat 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 tocall radio or the telephone an "invention." Throughout this marvelous volume, Lienhard illuminates 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. "Lienhard is enthralled with invention, how it happens and how inventions both shape and are shaped by culture.... 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 "Lienhard is a first-rate storyteller with a passion and talent for the byways of history. His stories build around two broad themes. The real motivation for invention, he argues, is not necessity but desire and pleasure. Second, taking aim at the deeply ingrained, and often deceitful concept ofpriority, he asks us to heed the echo of old voices in new machines." --Arthur P. Molella, Technology and Culture

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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 combinedinventive genius to airplanes, railroad engi...

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...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:288 pages, 9.25 × 6.13 × 2 inPublished:July 1, 2008Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195341201

ISBN - 13:9780195341201

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"Watt's genius was in devising a practical engine; Lienhard's genius is in telling the real story of invention."--New Scientist Magazine "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 "Lienhard, a graceful and perceptive writer, has produced a popular book that may well seduce the general public away from received hero myths without denigrating those myths."--Technology and Culture