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American Genesis

A Century of Invention and Technological Enthusiasm, 1870-1970

The book that helped earn Thomas P. Hughes his reputation as one of the foremost historians of technology of our age and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1990, American Genesis tells the sweeping story of America’s technological revolution. Unlike other histories of technology, which focus on particular inventions like the light bulb or the automobile, American Genesis makes these inventions characters in a broad chronicle, both shaped by and shaping a culture. By weaving scientific and technological advancement into other cultural trends, Hughes demonstrates here the myriad ways in which the two are inexorably linked, and in a new preface, he recounts his earlier missteps in predicting the future of technology and follows its move into the information age.

548 pages | 118 halftones | 6-1/4 x 9-3/16 | © 1989, 2004

History: American History, General History, History of Technology

History of Science


"Hughes writes with sweep and detail. He links diverse phenomena like the military-industrial complex and modern art and architecture with his overall vision that order and control were the inevitable result of technological progress. His is an epic tale told with a rhythm and cadence that match it."

Lee Dembart | Los Angeles Times

"Immensely valuable."

Jonathan Yardley | Washington Post

"To be sure, readers who don’t look for theoretical argument in history books won’t regret its absence in American Genesis. They will enjoy, as I did, its informative accounts of major inventors and organizers--Henry Ford and Frederick Taylor as well as Edison, but most of all Elmer Sperry, the inventor not only of the gyroscope but also of many automatic control systems."

David Joravsky | New York Review of Books

"Masterful and stimulating. . . . It is Hughes’s mastery of the history of technology that distinguishes this book from previous efforts to depict history as technology . . . Many people have deplored the lack of a single volume giving a coherent, well-written account of what has been learned since 1970 about the role of technology in American history since 1870. Thomas Hughes has done something about it."

George Wise | Science

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Technological Torrent
A Gigantic Tidal Wave of Human Ingenuity
Choosing and Solving Problems
Brain Mill for the Military
No Philanthropic Asylum for Indigent Scientists
The System Must be First
Taylorismus + Fordismus= Amerikanismus
The Second Discovery of America
Tennessee Valley and Manhattan Engineer District
Counterculture and Momentum

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