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100 Greatest Inventions of all Time: A Ranking Past and Present Hardcover – August 1, 2003

2.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Though the idea of ranking inventions might seem a little silly, Philbin's catalog of machines and tools that have changed the world proves a surprisingly absorbing read-largely because of the author's brisk, fact-filled and gossipy descriptions. His entry for invention #2, for example, not only recounts how Thomas Edison used plain-old cotton thread to invent the electric light bulb, it also reveals Edison himself to be "a work-obsessed, sometimes ruthless, egoistic man who could be obscene and a little crude." Similarly, in reading about the development of general anesthesia (invention #34), one learns that British chemist Joseph Priestly isolated the gas nitrous oxide in 1776 and that "enlightened members of society" used to hold "ether frolics" in which they reveled in the gas's intoxicating properties. Even a seemingly obvious entry like "nail" (invention #36) yields an intriguing account of the old artisan profession of "nailor." Philbin clearly has a knack for making even the driest facts yield narrative juice. Anyone in the mood for a pleasant survey of science history would do well to buy his book.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Citadel (August 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806524030
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806524030
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 1 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,265,413 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By William P. Palmer on May 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Review of The 100 greatest inventions of all time: a ranking past and present by Tom Philbin.

CITATION: Philbin, T. (2003). The 100 greatest inventions of all time: a ranking past and present. New York: Citadel Press.

Reviewer Dr W. P. Palmer.

The version being reviewed is a paperback book, 294 pages long, well illustrated in black and white, containing one hundred inventions, preceded by a contents page and introduction, followed by an index. I observe that other reviewers have not been greatly impressed by the book and there is truth in their observations. Questions that need to be asked are ‘who are the audience for this book?’ and ‘how should the book be used?’. The book was published in 2003, has not been revised. Consider the number of new inventions in the past ten years and think how much these would change a book of this type! There are also minor inaccuracies that need correction. Thus, it cannot be a book recommended without reservation. It is however very competitively priced in paperback; it contains huge amounts of information, often a little differently expressed than may be found on the internet, so it can certainly be considered a useful book for reference.

With regard to the idea that it is possible to grade inventions in terms of ‘greatness’; this is an obvious fallacy! The boomerang is not mentioned; is it a greater or less great invention than the bow and arrow? The difference between discovery and invention is considered in Philbin’s introduction and his definition is dubious; his application of this definition throughout the book is somewhat inconsistent. However this is splitting hairs, Tom Philbin has provided a useful book, now in need of revision, which provides valuable information inexpensively, and is great for dipping into as a starting point for further discussion and research.

BILL PALMER
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Format: Paperback
On page 219 of this book, the chapter entitled AC Induction Motor, the first sentence proceeds thus: "Though he's hardly as well known as Thomas Alva Edison, Polish-born Nikola Tesla...". The second paragraph begins: "Tesla was born on July 9, 1856, in Smiljan, Croatia,...". I would be looking elsewhere if I wanted to actually be sure of the veracity of what I was reading.
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Format: Hardcover
The selection of the most important 100 inventions of all times is, in a sense, an impossible task, and the present volume only represents an honest attempt at it, rather than anything that can be called truly definitive. Other historians of technology would have a list that would only partially overlap this one to varying degrees. It might be interesting to see other lists of this sort, and to be able to examine their pros and cons. But it appears, unhappily, that this volume is meant more to entertain us, than it is to provide the best of all possible lists.
The inventions cited range from the prehistoric to the latter half of the twentieth century. They concentrate, it seems, more on inventions that require some sort of mechanical embodiment, leaving out any that deal with compositions of matter, with the lone exception of paint. Thus he ignores bakelite, polyethylene, and other plastics which have transformed our century. And also he forgets the invention of bronze, iron, steel, ceramics and clear glass. Chemical inventions such as tanning, Haber's nitrogen fixation, electrolysis, and other synthetic methods are ignored. He forgets soap, and antisepsis.
Cloth and rope are not here. Nor are the crops or the inventions of agriculture included: hay and wheat, all methods for the preservation of food, fertilizer, domestication of animals, methods for breeding animals and plants, irrigation. These are the basic inventions that moved us from hunter-gatherers to agriculturalists, and would seem to belong in a list that includes the plow and the wheel.
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Format: Hardcover
Some significant errors...according to this book, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, and the second on Hiroshima.
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Format: Hardcover
I guess any list is subject to debate, so I would say Mr. Philbin has come up with a considerably good list. In fact some of the items we take for granted are in this list. Overall this list looks good to me.

However, the text disappointed me. Every invention has three important parts: 1. Science and 2. Story of invention and 3. Story of the inventor. Science part should explain how the gizmo works. Story of the invention should tell how it was invented. And the story of the inventor should tell about the inventor. Instead of finding the real science, story and timeline behind these inventions, the author skims the subject at a very high level, sometimes wandering into unnecessary description of politics.

Inclusion of Condom as an invention caused me not to buy this for my child. I borrowed it from a local library with full intention of purchasing it later. But that particular invention is a sensitive subject. Not arguing whether the author should have included it or not. Just saying that because of that I don't find myself comfortable to give it to my son for independent reading. Others may disagree with me and I would respect their opinion.

Overall I like the book. So three stars instead of two.
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