John Jewkes, David Sawers, and Richard Stillerman: The Sources of Innovation Reading Summary

This article, written back in 1969, starts off by making the important point that technological progress, even if it is well known among people, cannot entirely be statistically valued. Professor Jewkes of Oxford University also poses the question as to whether or not the technological advances of the 19th century were any more important than those made in the 20th century up until that point. There will never be a mathematical way of measuring the importance and influence of different technologies, especially considering some went through many more stages than others. However, there are ways to practically value the impact different technologies have had economically on businesses and even the everyday social lives of people in many cases.

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The technological advances of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries had different impacts on the people of the times and sometimes did not occur as frequently as many people think, says Jewkes. He discusses how in many cases, an entire community of individuals would set out to push the boundaries of innovations and come up with inventions as a collective group. The only issue was that the public, not the inventors, was mostly likely to decide whether or not said inventions were more “important” than others. Professor Jewkes brings up a very important point of discussion in that these technologies from the past few centuries did not necessarily come out of advances in the areas of “pure science”. Instead, he proposes that the opposite occurs where many advances in the modern technology of an age can lead to innovations in science as well.

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If you would like to read up on some of the arguably most important/influential technologies of the 20th century or how different types of modern technology have impacted humanity over time, please check out the links down below.


Piller and Bryant: Paved Highways and the Origin of the Automobile Engine Article Summaries

The first of these two articles, by Dan Piller, discusses the social implications of paved highways in the United States. While the U.S. government was worrying about wars and diplomacy around the world, all generations of Americans were utilizing highways in different ways. Piller gives in example of this in that highways not only allowed cities to expand outward but also created new markets from the traffic that developed. Finally, paved highways allowed for products to be shipped from one place to another in a much cheaper and more efficient manner than before.

The second of these two articles, by Lynwood Bryant, discusses the background and early influences that led to the creation of the first automobile engine. The article gets very technical on the specifics of how gas combustion creates massive amounts of heat within the engine to generate power through a system called the Otto Cycle. The impact that automobiles would have on world society and economics would become crucial during the 20th century. People everywhere could individually transport themselves, other, and even products across mass amounts of land at very impressive speeds.

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These two technological developments would work hand in hand throughout the 1900’s and into the 21st century to help the United States cement itself as a major manufacturer and distributor worldwide. Highways and the automobiles that drove on them could transport goods from one side of the country to the other, allowing for international trade to countries from Europe to Asia.

By: Giuseppe Vitale

If you would like to see a cool timeline of the different stages of development over time for the automobile engine or how ancient cultures utilized the paved roads of their day, please check the links below.

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