This collection profiles both famous and lesser-known American inventors, entrepreneurs, and scientists from the 18th century to the present day, covering the social and historical contexts of their work.
Among the well-known individuals included are Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Graham Bell, and George Washington Carver. Women given chapters of their own are: Annie Turnbo Malone and Madam C.J. Walker, who made millions thanks to their African-American hair care products and business initiatives; Gertrude Elion, the Nobel Prize–winning scientist and daughter of Jewish immigrants; Grace Hopper, who broke barriers both in the Navy and the world of computer programming; and Lydia Villa-Komaroff, a scientist of Indigenous and Latinx descent who has done groundbreaking work in the treatment of diabetes. Some chapters offer an overview of particular topics, such as the inventions of enslaved and free blacks, food products, and popular games and toys. The most recent inventor covered is Elon Musk. A final section entitled “What About You?” encourages readers to be innovators, explicitly calling attention to the tremendous diversity (across many dimensions) of the individuals profiled. Unfortunately, the text, though accessible and informative, is neither insightful nor engagingly written. While some profiles run to 16 pages, others—in the topical chapters—are simply a paragraph. Another oversight is the lack of recommended readings of in-depth works on the subjects for those interested in learning more.
A serviceable introduction. (color photos, glossary, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)