Wheels, Clocks, and Rockets: A History of Technology

Written by Donald Cardwell
Review by Juliet Waldron

As the tide seeps in, it moves the beach a grain of sand at a time. So, until very recently, it has been with the expansion of technical knowledge. We once studied “progress” by learning names and dates, but the real story is far more complex.

Advances were made by businessmen, not by theoreticians. Miners needed to pump water from mines, clockmakers worked in miniaturization and precision, and textile manufacturers, searching for ways to speed production, created the first factories. These men not only solved immediate problems, but made peripheral improvements and discoveries that led to inventions as various as air conditioning, machine tools, structural engineering, power generation/transmission, and the chemical and computer industries.

Wheels, Clocks, and Rockets is at once dense and supremely lucid. Index, chapter notes and graceful prose make the book available to the serious student or casual reader, now catching up on a kind of history they don’t teach in school.