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The Evolution of Useful Things: How Everyday Artifacts-From Forks and Pins to Paper Clips and Zippers-Came to be as They are
 
 


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The Evolution of Useful Things: How Everyday Artifacts-From Forks and Pins to Paper Clips and Zippers-Came to be as They are [Paperback]

Henry Petroski
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This surprising book may appear to be about the simple things of life--forks, paper clips, zippers--but in fact it is a far-flung historical adventure on the evolution of common culture. To trace the fork's history, Duke University professor of civil engineering Henry Petroski travels from prehistoric times to Texas barbecue to Cardinal Richelieu to England's Industrial Revolution to the American Civil War--and beyond. Each item described offers a cultural history lesson, plus there's plenty of engineering detail for those so inclined.

From Library Journal

For armchair inventors or those who are curious about the way things work, this book offers hours of delight. Petroski (engineering, Duke Univ.) provides an intricate look, in lay reader's terms, at the technology and basic rationale behind a number of items we often take for granted. The list is comprehensive: kitchen utensils, zippers, tools, paper clips, fast-food packaging, and more. The text is far from a recital of mere facts. Petroski's anecdotes and stories about individual designers and inventors are told with warm regard. Petroski also provides illuminating thoughts on the theoretical, historical, and cultural frameworks that influenced these creations. Although this book will appeal to a somewhat specialized audience, many general readers will find it fascinating and educational. For circulating libraries.
- Carol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield, N.J.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"A celebration of inventiveness...By cataloging the clutter of our desks, closets, and workbenches, and giving them a human history, Petroski makes us feel more at home in our homes."- Newsweek

"Petroski is a valuable resource—an engineer who examines the simplest, most ubiquitous tools in our live with an appraising eye."- Washington Post Book World

"Mr. Petroski's case histories delightfully illustrate his thesis... You never know when you will turn a page and find some tiny corner of your mind enlightened."- The New York Times

"Petroski has an eye for the mundane that distracts and delights... [His] wealth of literary and cultural references runs from Aristotle... to Russell Baker... The book has substance."- Newsday

From the Inside Flap

Petroski tells fascinating stories about the arduous processes that resulted in paper clips, Post-its, Phillips-head screwdrivers, Scotch tape, and fast-food "clamshell" containers. "Petroski . . . an examines the simplest . . . tools in our lives with an appraising eye."--Washington Post Book World. 45 illus.

From the Back Cover

"Very engaging and wonderfully informative...The Pencil unfolds a history of invention, craftsmanship, engineering, manufacture and business that is also at times a history of cultural life on both sides of the Atlantic...No reader of this book will ever be able to pick up a pencil again without marveling."

-- Hilton Kramer, Newsday

"So engrossing that I read it through in one sitting...An utterly absorbing history."

-- Martin Gardner, Raleigh News and Observer

"Beguiling...surprising, entertaining, informative. One could scarcely ask a book to be more!...Using the story of the pencil as a paradigm, Petroski shows us how the process of engineering unfolds and [how] the pencil is the end result of a process that parallels those by which products of much greater sophistication -- computers, for example -- are invented, designed, manufactured and improved."

-- Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World

"A serious and charming history...Petroski argues his case with wry humor and an amplitude of anecdotage drawn from many centuries and continents. The Pencil is that great rarity, a book that will appeal to ordinary readers and yet seems destined as well to become a minor classic in academe."

-- Cullen Murphy, The Atlantic

"You will never feel the same about the pencil after you read this terrific book."

-- Larry King, USA Today --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Henry Petroski is the Aleksander S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and Professor of History at Duke University. He is the author of more than ten books.
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