If all measures of human advancement in the last hundred centuries
were plotted on a graph, they would show an almost perfectly flat
line--until the eighteenth century, when the Industrial Revolution
would cause the line to shoot straight up, beginning an almost
uninterrupted march of progress.
In The Most Powerful Idea in the World, William Rosen tells the
story of the men responsible for the Industrial Revolution and the
machine that drove it--the steam engine. In the process he tackles
the question that has obsessed historians ever since: What made
eighteenth-century Britain such fertile soil for inventors? Rosen's
answer focuses on a simple notion that had become enshrined in
British law the century before: that people had the right to own
and profit from their ideas.
The result was a period of frantic innovation revolving
particularly around the promise of steam power. Rosen traces the
steam engine's history from its early days as a clumsy but sturdy
machine, to its coming-of-age driving the wheels of mills and
factories, to its maturity as a transporter for people and freight
by rail and by sea. Along the way we enter the minds of such
inventors as Thomas Newcomen and James Watt, scientists including
Robert Boyle and Joseph Black, and philosophers John Locke and Adam
Smith--all of whose insights, tenacity, and ideas transformed first
a nation and then the world.
William Rosen is a masterly storyteller with a keen eye for the
"aha " moments of invention and a gift for clear and entertaining
explanations of science. The Most Powerful Idea in the World will
appeal to readers fascinated with history, science, and the hows
and whys of innovation itself.
"From the Hardcover edition."
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