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Great Inventions that Changed the World

ISBN: 978-0-470-76817-4
360 pages
July 2012
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Discover the inventions that have made our world what it is today

A great invention opens the door to a new era in human history. The stone axe, for example, invented some 2 million years ago in East Africa, enabled us to enter the human path of endless improvements through inventions. The taming of fire enabled us to cook food as well as leave the warmth of Africa and move to the frigid lands of the North. From the stone axe to the computer and the Internet, this book provides a fascinating tour of the most important inventions and inventors throughout history. You'll discover the landmark achievements and the men and women that made the world what it is today.

Great Inventions That Changed the World is written by Professor James Wei, a renowned educator and engineer who holds several patents for his own inventions. Following an introductory chapter examining the role of inventors and inventions in fueling innovation and global advancement, the book is organized to show how inventions are spurred by human needs and desires, including:

  • Work
  • Food, clothing, and housing
  • Health and reproduction
  • Security

As you progress through the book, you'll not only learn about inventions and inventors, but also the impact they have had on our lives and the society and environment in which we live today. Inventions solve problems, but as this book so expertly demonstrates, they can also directly or indirectly create new problems as well, from pollution to global warming to bioterrorism. By enabling us to understand the impact of inventions throughout history, this book can help guide the next generation of citizens, decision makers, and inventors.

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FOREWORD VII

PREFACE XI

1 INTRODUCTION 1

1.1 Inventors and Inventions 2

1.2 Innovation, Development, Diffusion 11

1.3 Changing the World 15

2 INVENTIONS FOR WORK 45

2.1 Tools and Methods 46

2.2 Energy and Power 58

2.3 Materials 71

3 DOMESTIC LIFE: FOOD, CLOTHES, AND HOUSE 81

3.1 Food 82

3.2 Clothes 97

3.3 House 104

4 HEALTH, REPRODUCTION 117

4.1 Prevention 119

4.2 Diagnostics 126

4.3 Therapy 131

4.4 Reproduction 141

5 SECURITY 153

5.1 Natural Threats 153

5.2 Economic Threats 157

5.3 Human Violence: War 163

6 TRANSPORTATION 197

6.1 Land Transportation 199

6.2 Water Transportation 205

6.3 Air and Space Transportation 216

7 INFORMATION 229

7.1 Observation 229

7.2 Records 238

7.3 Communication 250

7.4 Information Tools 259

8 GOOD LIFE 281

8.1 Party and Play 282

8.2 Luxury 294

8.3 Arts 304

9 FUTURE CHALLENGES 319

9.1 Future Needs and Opportunities 319

9.2 Future Sources of Inventions 325

INDEX 333

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JAMES WEI, PhD, began his career as a research scientist for Mobil Oil in 1955. Since then, he has held academic positions at the University of Delaware, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and was Dean of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Princeton University. Dr. Wei is the author of eight books and more than 130 research papers. He also holds two U.S. patents and is the former president of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).

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“I highly recommend the very accessible and thought provoking book Great Inventions that Changed the World by James Wei, Ph.D., to any business leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, history and technology enthusiasts, engineers, and students of history, technology, and engineering disciplines seeking a clear and engaging guide to the triumphs and challenges of the greatest inventions of all time. This book will also introduce the readers to some of the most creative innovators and problem solvers through the ages in a logical and readily understood format.”  (Money Talks, 1 December 2012)

“I highly recommend the very accessible and thought provoking book Great Inventions that Changed the World by James Wei, Ph.D., to any business leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, history and technology enthusiasts, engineers, and students of history, technology, and engineering disciplines seeking a clear and engaging guide to the triumphs and challenges of the greatest inventions of all time. This book will also introduce the readers to some of the most creative innovators and problem solvers through the ages in a logical and readily understood format.”  (Blog Business World, 1 December 2012)

“He has written a remarkable and wide ranging work that spans human development from the stone age to the computer age . . . Of course as a chemist, I might wish that our science and industry had featured more prominently in Great inventions, but this is a minor quibble of what is undoubtedly a major work that is nothing less than superb.”  (Chemistry World, 14 November 2012)

“This isn’t just a book of inventions but also the history of how it changed the world so you also have this incredible history of the world here as well. If you’re creating a reality for any genre, then this is essential reading because you’ll realise a lot of things weren’t just there but was built upon. If you just want to be informed, then you will come away from this book with a formidable amount of knowledge. This is a book worthy of everyone’s attention.”  (SFCrowsnest.org.uk, 1 September 2012)

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