“We Get the Technology We Deserve”

A leader in the emerging field of technological history speaks about the inventors who made our modern world and tells why it is vital for us to know not only what they did, but how they thought

When people say that technology is a juggernaut dragging a helpless society along behind it, Thomas Hughes shakes his head. History shows otherwise, he says. In his landmark study Networks of Power , he tells how in Victorian England electrification was stopped cold for many years by apprehensive small-town councils. Such episodes—and the book describes many of them—have convinced Hughes that technology is quite tamable—if we keep close account of its past and present interactions with society.Read more »

Father Of The Modern Submarine

Dauntless John Holland not only perfected the undersea boat but fought to get it accepted. Both achievements brought him only grief


“Without celebration,” the New York Times reported under date line of May 17, 1897, “the Holland, the little cigar-shaped vessel owned by her inventor, which may or may not play an important part in the building of the navies of the world in the years to come, was launched from Lewis Nixon’s shipyard this morning.” John Philip Holland, her designer, hurried up to the launching platform at the last minute 

The Stanleys and their Steamer

Teetotaling twin brothers built the most wonderful car of their era, and its day of glory may not be over yet

At the turn of the twentieth century, the American automobile industry was in a stage of youthful indecision. Two courses lay open to it: to follow the already well-defined path of steam propulsion, or to explore the lesser-known byway of gasoline power. Steam seemed to have the brighter future and, at this point, was heavily favored by the early auto makers. In the year 1900 more than 1,600 steam cars were produced, compared to only goo driven by gas.