The Engines of Our Ingenuity: An Engineer Looks at Technology and Culture

By John H. Lienhard | Go to book overview

6
Industrial
Revolution

T he Industrial Revolution is an easily misunderstood event. In many people's minds the phrase suggests mass production, assembly lines, and the heavy industry of the late nineteenth century, but these things all came much later. When Arnold Toynbee coined the term Industrial Revolution, he applied it to the technologydriven change of British life as it occurred from 1760 to 1840, opening a very large umbrella. Yet even that umbrella still did not cover the first mass production and assembly lines, nor did it encompass our images of modern heavy industry.

Toynbee's dating of the Industrial Revolution starts when its causes were just taking form, and ends when England had become a mature industrial power. He took in the whole saga of the revolution, but within that saga we can identify the Revolution as a much more specific moment in British history. It is the point at which technology suddenly joined hands with radical social and economic changes. In the 1780s Watt's advanced steam engines, Hargreaves' spinning jenny, Cort's improvement of wrought-iron production, and Wilkinson's cylinderboring mill all came into being. At the same time, economic theoreticians David Hume and Adam Smith were setting forth a new economic and social system.

This convergence of inventions was part and parcel of the other great revolutions of the late eighteenth century—the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and a spate of lesser European revolutions. We have to understand it in the context of those political and social upheavals. In England, social revolution grew out of eighteenth-century

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The Engines of Our Ingenuity: An Engineer Looks at Technology and Culture
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Preface vii
  • The Engines of Our Ingenuity *
  • 1 - Mirrored by Our Machines 3
  • 2 - God, the Master Craftsman 20
  • 3 - Looking Inside the Inventive Mind 35
  • 4 - The Common Place 55
  • 5 - Science Marries into the Family 70
  • 6 - Industrial Revolution 86
  • 7 - Inventing America 96
  • 8 - Taking Flight 115
  • 9 - Attitudes and Technological Change 126
  • 10 - War and Other Ways to Kill People 139
  • 11 - Major Landmarks 153
  • 12 - Systems, Design, and Production 167
  • 13 - Heroic Materialism 179
  • 14 - Who Got There First? 193
  • 15 - Ever-Present Dangers 209
  • 16 - Technology and Literature 219
  • 17 - Being There 229
  • Correlation of the Text with the Radio Program 241
  • Notes 243
  • Index 255
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