Technology and Society: The Influence of Machines in the United States

By S. Mckee Rosen ; Laura Rosen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV
PUBLIC RESISTANCE

The Public's Reaction to Invention

It is only necessary to glance at a newspaper to be aware of the creative powers of inventions. The swiftness of their achievement and the breadth of their vision are illustrated by a single clipping from The New York Times, September 25, 1938, of which a sub-heading reads, "Many Fields of Activity Are Covered by 686 Patents Issued Last Week." The article describes briefly a number of outstanding inventions patented: a method of converting sawdust, straw, wood waste, and waste sugar cane stalks into valuable synthetic plastics suitable to the manufacture of buttons, door knobs, and steering wheels for autos, radio panels, etc.; a process whereby thyroxine, the hormone secreted by the thyroid gland, can be synthesized from cheese; a new and more economical procedure for the making of Portland cement; a novel chemical to sterilize drinking water; a "traffic officer's garment" designed to make policemen "light up" in the dark so that motorists cannot help but see them; a soap preparation suited to the twofold purpose of washing and moth proofing woolen garments; a double-barreled fountain pen so arranged that by turning a valve near the pen point the writer can change from red to blue ink; a switch whereby auto ignition is closed on the impact of collision; a wallet with a roller which on being turned ejects the contents; a muffled vacuum cleaner; a "door pull" that permits the auto driver while sitting behind the wheel to close the door to his right without reaching over; a dial telephone attachment capable both of printing the number of the party called and of counting the messages made. How many lives can be saved, dollars economized, units of energy stored through the patents of seven days!

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