AMERICAN GENESIS: A Century of Invention and Techn by Thomas P. Hughes

AMERICAN GENESIS: A Century of Invention and Techn

Email this review


A major work in American history and sociology, depicting a nation shaped not by politics or economics, but by systems of technology. Hughes (History & Sociology of Science/U. of Penn.) demonstrates changes in the ways science has been managed and technology delivered since the late 19th century, when technological innovation moved out of the hands of independent inventors--Edison, Sperry, Tesla, etc.--into the industrial laboratories of the corporations that grew around their work: invention displaced by R & D. With research directed by those with an investment in existing technologies, the emphasis shifted from the creation of new systems to refinements in existing systems. The new systems tapped academia, whose approach through theory superseded the inventor's empiricism; WW I brought the military into the equation, giving us the "military-industrial complex." Hughes shows us conscious system-builders, represented by Frederick Taylor, "father of scientific management," and Henry Ford; Lenin applied their principles to achieve collectivization, while the Weimar Republic did so to prevent it. With Samuel Insull's midwestern power distribution grid, the T.V.A., and finally the Manhattan Project, Hughes demonstrates the increasing size and power of systems of technology. Not a new vision: Hughes arrives, finally, at Mumford's "megamachine" and Ellul's "technicized" society. But, nonetheless, this is an important discussion of the motive force of technology, a corollary to Kennedy's The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.

Pub Date: April 28th, 1989
ISBN: 670-81478-4
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:



NonfictionMAD SCIENCE by Randy Alfred
by Randy Alfred