Inventing the 20th Century: 100 Inventions that Shaped...

Editor's Choice

May 12, 2002|By Michael Pakenham

Inventing the 20th Century: 100 Inventions that Shaped the World, by Stephen van Dulken (New York University Press, 246 pages, $30).

One more treasure trove for trivia addicts, this compendium by a curator of the Patents Information Service of the British Library is based on British filings, but except for technical practices they are close to identical to the U.S. Patent Office records. There are 10 chapters, each spanning a decade of the 20th century. The first is "the aeroplane" -- granted to the Wright brothers in 1906. The last is Viagra, patented in 1990, though not approved for use in the U.S. until 1998. In between come such brand-new ideas or major improvements as stainless steel (1916), the zipper (1917), the microwave oven (1945), the microchip (1959) and the mouse (1967). Each entry includes a diagram from the original application, and a well-focused, nontechnical description of the origin, use and importance of the device. A bibliography offers the truly interested further guidance, including pertinent Internet sites.

Feminism

You gentlemen say we should not vote because we'll mingle at the polls with horrid men, but these are the same horrid men we live with the rest of the year.

-- Anna Howard Shaw

19th-century suffragist

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