Insisting on the Impossible: The Life of Edwin Land

Insisting on the Impossible: The Life of Edwin Land

Insisting on the Impossible: The Life of Edwin Land

Insisting on the Impossible: The Life of Edwin Land

Synopsis

In this masterful biography of the Magellan of modern technology, Victor McElheny portrays a great inventor and entrepreneur in action. Second only to Edison in the number of patents he received (535), Land not only invented instant photography but he built a gigantic enterprise that turned out polarizers, high-speed and x-ray film, identification systems, 3D and instant movies, and military devices for aerial reconnaissance. He developed a new theory of color vision and, during the Cold War, spearheaded the development of the U2 spy plane. McElheny's insights into Land's innovative genius will speak to anyone interested in business, science, photography, or government.

Excerpt

Technology is the application of science, engineering, and industrial organization to create a human-built world. It has led, in developed nations, to a standard of living inconceivable a hundred years ago. The process, however, is not free of stress; by its very nature, technology brings change in society and undermines convention. It affects virtually every aspect of human endeavor: private and public institutions, economic systems, communications networks, political structures, international affiliations, the organization of societies, and the condition of human lives. The effects are not one-way; just as technology changes society, so too do societal structures, attitudes, and mores affect technology. But perhaps because technology is so rapidly and completely assimilated, the profound interplay of technology and other social endeavors in modern history has not been sufficiently recognized.

The Sloan Foundation has had a long-standing interest in deepening public understanding about modern technology, its origins, and its impact on our lives. The Sloan Technology Series, of which the present volume is a part, seeks to present to the general reader the stories of the development of critical twentieth-century technologies. The aim of the series is to convey both the technical and human dimensions of the subject: the invention and effort entailed in devising the technologies and the comforts and stresses they have introduced into contemporary life. As the century draws to an end, it is hoped that the series will disclose a past that might provide perspective on the present and inform the future.

The Foundation has been guided in its development of the Sloan Technology Series by a distinguished advisory committee. We express deep . . .

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