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Saturday, December 01, 2012


Great Inventions That Changed The World by James Wei - Book review

Great Inventions that Changed the World

By: James Wei, Ph.D.

Published: July 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 360 pages
ISBN-10: 0470768177
ISBN-13: 978-0470768174
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

"The greatest inventions make dramatic breakthroughs, and open new eras in human history", writes educator, multiple patent holder former Dean of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Princeton University, James Wei, Ph.D., in his fascinating and comprehensive book Great Inventions that Changed the World. The author describes the most important human inventions that altered the entire course of history, and how inventions not only solved critical problems but also presented some new challenges for humanity.

James Wei recognizes the epochal importance of a revolutionary invention on the transformation of the world and the lives of all people. The author guides the reader on an exciting human journey of discovery and creation that spans millions of years. From the invention of the stone axe which had a profound impact on human evolution itself, to the discovery of fire making that facilitated the spread of people to all corners of the planet, to our post industrial computer and online world, inventions have aided and created fundamental changes in how people live and work. James Wei provides a complete overview of the inventions that rebuilt the world, and the inventors who made those seminal discoveries. At the same time, James Wei examines the fresh set of problems that accompanied the very innovations that enhanced the lives of so many people.

James Wei (photo left) understands the importance of innovation and inventions to the world as a whole. In the book, the author describes the truly landmark inventions and discoveries that changed society and the lives of people forever. Basing the impetus for innovation on basic human needs and wants, James Wei presents these basic driving forces as the historical and modern incentive to innovate constantly, and to create ever more inventions and new discoveries.

James Wei breaks the book down into sections that places these very human necessities and desires into a long term perspective. The author shows both the benefits of each great invention, as well as providing insights into the perils and problems associated with each new advancement. The sections of the book, categorized on needs and wants, are as follows:

* Work inventions
* Domestic life: Food, clothing, and housing
* Health and reproduction
* Security
* Transportation
* Information
* The good life
* Future challenges

For me, the power of the book is James Wei combines his own engineering and inventor based insights, with a long historical perspective, on the fundamental and world changing importance of the major inventions discussed in the book. The author presents the most important discoveries in a logical order, based on the category of human essentials or wants that they solve or enhance. James Wei utilizes his engineering and inventive skills to good use as he offers his deep insights into the inventive process, and the considerations given when seeking out a problem solving innovation.

The author offers a balanced approach to the subject matter as well. Far from being a simple hagiography of the innovators and their creations, James Wei takes a critical examination of the fresh problems and challenges that are posed by each new invention. Each of the innovations carries with it a dark side, and James Wei doesn't dismiss that characteristic out of hand. Indeed, he embraces that new challenge as an opportunity for fresh insights and innovations.

I highly recommend the very accessible and thought provoking book Great Inventions that Changed the World by James Wei, Ph.D., to any business leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, history and technology enthusiasts, engineers, and students of history, technology, and engineering disciplines seeking a clear and engaging guide to the triumphs and challenges of the greatest inventions of all time. This book will also introduce the readers to some of the most creative innovators and problem solvers through the ages in a logical and readily understood format.


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This is a great, great, great choice of subject matter, and so timely. I have been arguing for years that all of political talk about "job creation" was distracting and that we need to focus more on innovation, science, engineering, and inventions leading to new technology.

Thanks so much for posting this.
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