A History of Technology and Invention: Progress Through the Ages, Vol. I: The Origins of Technological Civilization. Maurice Daumas. Crown.

A History of Technology and Invention: Progress Through the Ages, Vol. I: The Origins of Technological Civilization Book Cover A History of Technology and Invention: Progress Through the Ages, Vol. I: The Origins of Technological Civilization
Maurice Daumas

Everyone is aware that without the wheel there could be no civilization as we know it. But when in man’s history was it invented? How did it come about? What technological developments occurred before the wheel?

Although the exact origins of these first implements will never be known, the vast amount of material recently discovered by archaeologists and anthropologists has provided us with many exciting new insights into the fascinating history of technological development. Utilizing all the latest research, some of the most distinguished experts in the field have collaborated in writing A History of Technology and Innovation: Progress Through the Ages. Divided into four volumes, this set of books is probably the most ambitious project of its kind ever undertaken. Every phase of technological development, from implements predating written history up to modern times, is thoroughly examined, while inventions are related to the historical background of the society in which they appeared. Both the inventors themselves and the techniques they developed are discussed in detail, and hundreds of pictures, drawings, and diagrams clarify and illustrate every subject.

As the volume makes amply clear, technology developed through the centuries almost independently of science. It was not until the twentieth century that science took the lead in shaping technology. Among many other inventions, the compass, steam engine, airplane, and radio are examples of innovations brought to a working state even before scholars fully understood the scientific principles involved.

Volume 1, The Origins of Technological Civilization, opens with an examination of the earliest evidences of technology left by the anthropoids in the form of cutting tools, some of which were constructed with unbelievable precision by precursors of man formerly believed too low in intelligence for such accomplishments.

Surprisingly, we learn of the very early rise – not of “primitive” industries – but of industrial workshops, specialization of labor, and refined techniques that carry down to the present day: the spinning and weaving of fibers, the firing of clay wares, and the working of metals. It is shown that remarkable advances already had been made by the beginning of written history.

Volume 1 traces technological evolution around the Mediterranean basin from Mesopotamia to the Islamic world at the height of the Byzantine Empire, and including Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Special attention is paid to Chinese technology, which had remarkable spurts of progress alternating with long periods of stagnation. In addition, the American continent is examined during the pre-Columbian era as an example of technological progress completely independent of foreign influences.

Volume 1 ranges from the earliest evidences of man’s inventive spirit all the way to the flowering of Western technology during the Middle Ages. By providing a comprehensive overview of technological development, these volumes offer readers a deeper appreciation of how things work and the manner in which both individual talents and historical circumstances contributed to technology’s fascinating development.