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Inventing Modern: Growing up with X-Rays, Skyscrapers, and Tailfins Hardcover – September 18, 2003

4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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"From Buck Rogers to the Chrysler Airflow, Lienhard considers a particular strain of American Modernism through the personal lens of his own boyhood. While this book reflects a fascination with how things work, it also is a memoir, replete with subjective, idiosyncratic and deeply nostalgic associations."--Los Angeles Times


"A delightful personal memoir, a provocative cultural history, and an instructive guide to science and technology--a splendid book that entertains, challenges and informs in equal measure."--Samuel C. Florman, author of The Existential Pleasures of Engineering


"This is vintage Lienhard: intellectually cosmopolitan and curious, wide-ranging and almost breathless, with an ability to knit together events and people into a mosaic that, like all good history, is greater than the sum of its parts, and all in a voice that is so rhythmical that the reader is drawn along almost involuntarily."--Richard J. Blackett, Andrew Jackson Professor of History, Vanderbilt University


"Lienhard is a story-teller who informs and enchants. His book carries us on a riveting journey with twentieth-century technologies that created the worldview called modernity. In learning about these roots of modern, we learn about ourselves."--Stanley Joel Reiser, Griff T. Ross Professor of Humanities and Technology in Health Care at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston


" 'A good read' is not the first phrase that comes to mind in discussing most academic books, but in this case, it is well-deserved praiseA more fascinating, informative, or enjoyable introduction to science, technology, and modern science would be hard to imagine."--Choice


About the Author


John H. Lienhard is the M.D. Anderson Emeritus Professor of Mechanical Engineering and History at the University of Houston. He has worked as an engineer and educator since 1951, and is well known in thermal engineering. He has also written about, and taught, history since the 1970s. He is the author and host of The Engines of Our Ingenuity, a weekday radio essay on the history of creativity and invention (heard on many public radio stations), and he is author of the book by the same name.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (September 18, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195160320
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195160321
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 1 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,286,123 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
This is modern archaeology at its best. John Lienhard writes a thoughtful, moving book encircling our history through the eyes of an engineer. Inventing Modern traces the watershed inventions of the twentieth century, cataloguing their importance in the arc of our civilization. Without invention, the author argues, there are no artifacts of history. Taking a scientist's erudite perspective and infusing it with a healthy dose of playfulness and an artless sense of history, Lienhard tells us what it is to be American, modern, nuclear, analog, and even digital. Lienhard sees invention with a sense of irony, tragedy and pure joy. "Inventing" is not a dialectic dismantling of our Dionysian times but rather a surprising and hopeful and even dreamy look at the (recent past and) future of civilization from the perspective of a crafty engineer unafraid to stare down that elusive American improvisational spirit. You can read Arthur C.Clarke for fantasies of an alter-universe, but to get down to the nuts and bolts of the history and the scholarly soul of the space elevator project (for example) currently in its planning stages off the coast of the Pacific, read Lienhard. His is a most eloquent telling- an optimistic, un-patronizing work with a very strong vision of mankind's makings.
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Format: Hardcover
Lienhard's book is a personal account of the age of Modern, a term he defines as more a state of mind than an actual event or time. The operative word is personal. It is difficult to fully interpret biographical events as part of the epoch-changing phenomenon he calls "Modern".

"Modern", which began in the 19th century, affected not only the physical world but how we viewed that world. The author opines as to how an object or idea is either pre, post or actually modern. The range - from architecture to art to war to electricity and inventions - cover the gambit.

Lienhard believes "Modern" denotes a societal mindset, one we no longer possess. He is absolutely correct. Our society is awash in waves of data that can be neither integrated nor understood. Our spirit (for lack of a better word) is unlike the Modern pioneers. We've lost our innocence, our belief that technology will better our lives. Nor do we seek knowledge for its own sake. This is illustrated by popular myths: The environment is degrading, the economy is collapsing, chemicals are lethal, life is drugery, etc. The facts are, the UN again rated the US #1 for clean water and safe food, we are richer than ever, we have unprecedented free time and access to virtually any entertainment, news or information at our fingertips. In this post-modern age, the cry is for something different.

The author IS correct that "Modern" stopped in the 1950's. We define "modern architecture" as Frank Lloyd Wright, "modern art" as Andy Warhol and Mark Rothko, "modern cars" as snazzy Vets. Yet biotechnology, space travel and new inventions may usher in a new age he calls "Expanded". Recommended for serious readers.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have a cousin who teaches literature at a small college. She has developed a course that brings together history, art, literature, and technology and tries to establish the relationship between all of these. This book does just that and I intend to send her a link so that she can read it. If you are interested in history and the effect of technology on society will enjoy this book very much. There were several times in reading this book I said to myself "NOW I understand!" Read it and most likely you will to.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author sets the time frame of the modern age and tells us what he believes created and constituted the idea of
"modern." The stories he tells about what he considers key aspects of our modern times are very well told, very enlightening and give you some new, thought-provoking insights into our lives and culture. And whether you agree with his definition of modern and how he seeks to prove it, you will find his examples of modern worth reading all by themselves.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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