Inventing Modern: Growing Up with X-Rays, Skyscrapers, and Tailfins

By John H. Lienhard | Go to book overview

16
After Modern

Modern was not displaced by other ideas. Rather, it simply ran out of energy. Technological growth did not abate, nor did the seemingly new technologies that arose in the near wake of Modern—the space program and computers, for example—seem discontinuous with the past. Rocketry and computers could easily have lent themselves to the unique verve of Modern, and they had, indeed, been evolving for a long time as a part of Modern.

I might liken the end of Modern to a great caravan that reaches one more river, perhaps a little more formidable than most of the previous rivers it has crossed. There the travelers finally lose their collective confidence and stop. Others will pick up the journey on the other side, but they will do so without the old élan. Others will move forward, just as rapidly, but now questioning themselves, wondering what their journey is truly worth and no longer deriving the same primal joy from it.

We can see how this worked if we visit the last great exemplar of Modern. He was Vannevar Bush, America's leading government counselor on matters of technology and science from before World War II until 1959. Bush fit the profile of Modern perfectly. Born in 1890, he studied electrical engineering and mathematics at Tufts University and MIT. He was made the chairman of the NACA, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, in 1938. (That was the organization that President Eisenhower recreated as NASA on July 29, 1958.) Bush continued in that post until 1941 but was meanwhile appointed the chairman of the president's National Defense Research Committee in 1940.

In 1941 Bush was made director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development—a post he held until 1947. For two decades after World War II he served in high administrative posts in both education and government. He served as president of the Carnegie Foundation

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Inventing Modern: Growing Up with X-Rays, Skyscrapers, and Tailfins
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Preface vii
  • Inventing Modern xi
  • 1 - 1846: Great-Grandpa and Manifest Destiny 1
  • 2 - Short-Lived Technologies: Searching for Direction 21
  • 3 - “the Irruption of Forces Totally New” 39
  • 4 - A New Genus of Genius 53
  • 5 - Remington to Modern: Finding the Core on the Fringe 64
  • 6 - Fires and the High-Rise Phoenix 84
  • 7 - The Titan City 101
  • 8 - Automobile 115
  • 9 - On the Road: of Highways and Gasoline 137
  • 10 - The Back Door into the Sky 152
  • 11 - Flying Down to Rio 172
  • 12 - A Boy's Life in the New Century 190
  • 13 - Inventing a Better Mousetrap 204
  • 14 - War 219
  • 15 - A Funeral in the Fifties 244
  • 16 - After Modern 258
  • Notes 269
  • Index 285
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