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The Spirit of Invention: The Story of the Thinkers, Creators, and Dreamers Who Formed Our Nation Hardcover – June 9, 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Smithsonian; First Edition edition (June 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061231894
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061231896
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #91,802 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


ulie Fenster has uncovered and tracked the lives of many often obscure people who have laid the ground for the American spirit of invention.” (Peter Friess, President, The Tech Museum, Silicon Valley)

This book is an absolute must-read account of the human mind, spirit, and hand at their best, transforming plants into food and fabric, lakes into light, tubs into tunes, toys into tutors. Read it and you will be ready to roll up your sleeves (Frank R. Wilson; author, The Hand: How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, and Human Culture.)

About the Author

Julie M. Fenster is an award-winning author and historian, specializing in the American story. In 2006 her book Parish Priest, written with coauthor Douglas Brinkley, was a New York Times bestseller for seven weeks. She also wrote Ether Day: The Strange Tale of America's Greatest Medical Discovery and the Haunted Men Who Made It, which won the prestigious Anesthesia Foundation Award for Best Book. Fenster is the author of six other books, including Race of the Century: The Heroic True Story of the 1908 New York to Paris Auto Race and The Case of Abraham Lincoln: A Story of Adultery, Murder, and the Making of a Great President.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. Daly on August 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
If you like little facts about invention and innovation in America, you might look at this book. While Edison and other notables can be found in the book, you'll also discover lots of other people you've probably never heard of before. The author introduces people and technologies that will make you, at points, want to go the Web to find out more.

The strength of the book lies in its diversity of coverage. The author makes sure to include women, minorities, etc. who created nifty inventions; the weakness lies in its lack of depth (you learn very little about most inventors or inventions--most get only a paragraph or two) and, in some cases, the author stretches the contributions of some people to highlight diversity and ignores many other, more famous inventors.

The structure of the book is awkward. The first half is a good general read (I particular liked the argument she makes about the role of Scientific America and other periodicals in the history of invention in America--I'd be interested in an empirical study that backs her up on this (I buy the argument)). The second half is a bit forced when the author trys to wrap inventions into different physical senses and so on. But this is a problem for most books that don't follow chornological sequences (I think it was Stephen Ambrose who once advised that to ignore chronology is to take a huge risk).

If you want a more detailed yet still readable exposition of American inventiveness, go to Harold Evans "They Made America." But if you want a quick romp through America's inventors, especially some you've probably never heard of, this would be a good choice.
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The Spirit of Invention: The Story of the Thinkers, Creators, and Dreamers Who Formed Our Nation
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