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Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology

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Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology

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Making Tobacco Bright

Creating an American Commodity, 1617–1937

Barbara Hahn

In her sweeping history of the American tobacco industry, Barbara Hahn traces the emergence of the tobacco plant’s many varietal types, arguing that they are products not of nature but of economic relations and continued and intense market regulation. Hahn focuses her study on the most popular of these varieties, Bright Flue-Cured Tobacco. First grown in the inland Piedmont along the Virginia–North Carolina border, Bright Tobacco now grows all over the world, primarily because of its unique—and easily replicated—cultivation and curing methods. Hahn traces the evolution of technologies in a variety of regulatory and cultural environments to reconstruct how Bright Tobacco became, and remains to this day, a leading commodity in the global tobacco industry. This study asks not what effect tobacco had on the world market, but how that market shaped tobacco into types that served specific purposes and became distinguishable from one another more by technologies of production than genetics. In so doing, it explores the intersection of crossbreeding, tobacco-raising technology, changing popular demand, attempts at regulation, and sheer marketing ingenuity during the heyday of the American tobacco industry. Combining economic theory with the history of technology, Making Tobacco Bright revises several narratives in American history, from colonial staple-crop agriculture to the origins of the tobacco industry to the rise of identity politics in the twentieth century.

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Networked Machinists

High-Technology Industries in Antebellum America

David R. Meyer

A century and a half before the modern information technology revolution, machinists in the eastern United States created the nation's first high technology industries. In iron foundries and steam-engine works, locomotive works, machine and tool shops, textile-machinery firms, and firearms manufacturers, these resourceful workers pioneered the practice of dispersing technological expertise through communities of practice. In the first book to study this phenomenon since the 1916 classic, English and American Tool Builders, David R. Meyer examines the development of skilled-labor exchange systems, showing how individual metalworking sectors grew and moved outward. He argues that the networked behavior of machinists within and across industries helps explain the rapid transformation of metalworking industries during the antebellum period, building a foundation for the sophisticated, mass production/consumer industries that figured so prominently in the later U.S. economy.

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North Korean Nuclear Operationality

Regional Security and Nonproliferation

edited by Gregory J. Moore foreword by Graham T. Allison

Despite near-universal opposition to North Korea's moves to acquire nuclear weapons, Pyongyang is determined to succeed. It is only a matter of time before the North Koreans are able to combine their extant nuclear weapons capabilities with a viable delivery system. The threat only multiplies in light of the North Koreans having already demonstrated the willingness and ability to sell nuclear technology, materials, and know-how to other nuclear aspirants. In North Korean Nuclear Operationality, Gregory J. Moore asks leading experts in Asian and security studies to consider the international consequences of a North Korea with operational nuclear weapons. How will South Korea, China, Japan, and Russia react, and does it mean an arms race in the region is inevitable? How should the United States handle the situation, both diplomatically and strategically? North Korea has already destabilized the nuclear nonproliferation regime by being the only country ever to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and then openly test nuclear weapons. What are the repercussions to the nonproliferation regime of a successful North Korean move to nuclear weapons operationality? Given the importance of these issues and the lack of transparency surrounding North Korean politics, North Korean Nuclear Operationality offers critical and timely insight. A foreword by Graham T. Allison, founding dean of the modern John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, sets the stage for a rigorous look at the threats North Korea poses to regional security and the nuclear nonproliferation regime.

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Reinforced Concrete and the Modernization of American Building, 1900-1930

Amy E. Slaton

Examining the proliferation of reinforced-concrete construction in the United States after 1900, historian Amy E. Slaton considers how scientific approaches and occupations displaced traditionally skilled labor. The technology of concrete buildings—little studied by historians of engineering, architecture, or industry—offers a remarkable case study in the modernization of American production. The use of concrete brought to construction the new procedures and priorities of mass production. These included a comprehensive application of science to commercial enterprise and vast redistributions of skills, opportunities, credit, and risk in the workplace. Reinforced concrete also changed the American landscape as building buyers embraced the architectural uniformity and simplicity to which the technology was best suited. Based on a wealth of data that includes university curricula, laboratory and company records, organizational proceedings, blueprints, and promotional materials as well as a rich body of physical evidence such as tools, instruments, building materials, and surviving reinforced-concrete buildings, this book tests the thesis that modern mass production in the United States came about not simply in answer to manufacturers' search for profits, but as a result of a complex of occupational and cultural agendas.

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Scientists and Swindlers

Consulting on Coal and Oil in America, 1820–1890

Paul Lucier

In this impressively researched and highly original work, Paul Lucier explains how science became an integral part of American technology and industry in the nineteenth century. Scientists and Swindlers introduces us to a new service of professionals: the consulting scientists. Lucier follows these entrepreneurial men of science on their wide-ranging commercial engagements from the shores of Nova Scotia to the coast of California and shows how their innovative work fueled the rapid growth of the American coal and oil industries and the rise of American geology and chemistry. Along the way, he explores the decisive battles over expertise and authority, the high-stakes court cases over patenting research, the intriguing and often humorous exploits of swindlers, and the profound ethical challenges of doing science for money. Starting with the small surveying businesses of the 1830s and reaching to the origins of applied science in the 1880s, Lucier recounts the complex and curious relations that evolved as geologists, chemists, capitalists, and politicians worked to establish scientific research as a legitimate, regularly compensated, and respected enterprise. This sweeping narrative enriches our understanding of how the rocks beneath our feet became invaluable resources for science, technology, and industry.

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Structures of Change in the Mechanical Age

Technological Innovation in the United States, 1790–1865

Ross Thomson

The United States registered phenomenal economic growth between the establishment of the new republic and the end of the Civil War. Ross Thomson's fresh study accounts for the unprecedented technological innovations that helped propel antebellum growth. Thomson argues that the transition of the United States from an agrarian economy in 1790 to an industrial leader in 1865 relied fundamentally on the spread of technological knowledge within and across industries. Essential to this spread was a dense web of knowledge-diffusing institutions—new occupations and industries, the patent office, machine shops, mechanics’ associations, scientific societies, public colleges, and the civil engineering profession. Together they composed an integrated innovation system that generated, disseminated, and employed new technical knowledge across ever-widening ranges of the economy. To trace technological change in fourteen major industries and the economy as a whole, Thomson analyzes 14,000 patents, the records of two dozen machinery firms, census data for 1,800 companies, and hundreds of business directories. This exhaustive research leads to his interesting interpretation of technological diffusion and development. Thomson's impressive study of the infrastructure that fueled and supported the young country’s economic and industrial successes will interest students of economic, technological, and business history.

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Technological Change and the United States Navy, 1865–1945

William M. McBride

Navies have always been technologically sophisticated, from the ancient world's trireme galleys and the Age of Sail's ships-of-the-line to the dreadnoughts of World War I and today's nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines. Yet each large technical innovation has met with resistance and even hostility from those officers who, adhering to a familiar warrior ethos, have grown used to a certain style of fighting. In Technological Change and the United States Navy, William M. McBride examines how the navy dealt with technological change—from the end of the Civil War through the "age of the battleship"—as technology became more complex and the nation assumed a global role. Although steam engines generally made their mark in the maritime world by 1865, for example, and proved useful to the Union riverine navy during the Civil War, a backlash within the service later developed against both steam engines and the engineers who ran them. Early in the twentieth century the large dreadnought battleship at first met similar resistance from some officers, including the famous Alfred Thayer Mahan, and their industrial and political allies. During the first half of the twentieth century the battleship exercised a dominant influence on those who developed the nation's strategies and operational plans—at the same time that advances in submarines and fixed-wing aircraft complicated the picture and undermined the battleship's superiority. In any given period, argues McBride, some technologies initially threaten the navy's image of itself. Professional jealousies and insecurities, ignorance, and hidebound traditions arguably influenced the officer corps on matters of technology as much as concerns about national security, and McBride contends that this dynamic persists today. McBride also demonstrates the interplay between technological innovation and other influences on naval adaptability—international commitments, strategic concepts, government-industrial relations, and the constant influence of domestic politics. Challenging technological determinism, he uncovers the conflicting attitudes toward technology that guided naval policy between the end of the Civil War and the dawning of the nuclear age. The evolution and persistence of the "battleship navy," he argues, offer direct insight into the dominance of the aircraft-carrier paradigm after 1945 and into the twenty-first century.

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The Telegraph in America, 1832–1920

David Hochfelder

Telegraphy in the nineteenth century approximated the internet in our own day. Historian and electrical engineer David Hochfelder offers readers a comprehensive history of this groundbreaking technology, which employs breaks in an electrical current to send code along miles of wire. The Telegraph in America, 1832–1920, examines the correlation between technological innovation and social change and shows how this transformative relationship helps us to understand and perhaps define modernity. The telegraph revolutionized the spread of information—speeding personal messages, news of public events, and details of stock fluctuations. During the Civil War, telegraphed intelligence and high-level directives gave the Union war effort a critical advantage. Afterward, the telegraph helped build and break fortunes and, along with the railroad, altered the way Americans thought about time and space. Hochfelder thus supplies us with an introduction to the early stirrings of the information age.

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To the Digital Age

Research Labs, Start-up Companies, and the Rise of MOS Technology

Ross Knox Bassett

The metal-oxide-semiconductor (MOS) transistor is the fundamental element of digital electronics. The tens of millions of transistors in a typical home—in personal computers, automobiles, appliances, and toys—are almost all derive from MOS transistors. To the Digital Age examines for the first time the history of this remarkable device, which overthrew the previously dominant bipolar transistor and made digital electronics ubiquitous. Combining technological with corporate history, To the Digital Age examines the breakthroughs of individual innovators as well as the research and development power (and problems) of large companies such as IBM, Intel, and Fairchild. Bassett discusses how the MOS transistor was invented but spurned at Bell Labs, and then how, in the early 1960s, spurred on by the possibilities of integrated circuits, RCA, Fairchild, and IBM all launched substantial MOS R & D programs. The development of the MOS transistor involved an industry-wide effort, and Bassett emphasizes how communication among researchers from different firms played a critical role in advancing the new technology. Bassett sheds substantial new light on the development of the integrated circuit, Moore's Law, the success of Silicon Valley start-ups as compared to vertically integrated East Coast firms, the development of the microprocessor, and IBM's multi-billion-dollar losses in the early 1990s. To the Digital Age offers a captivating account of the intricate R & D process behind a technological device that transformed modern society.

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The Truth Machine

A Social History of the Lie Detector

Geoffrey C. Bunn

How do you trap someone in a lie? For centuries, all manner of truth-seekers have used the lie detector. In this eye-opening book, Geoffrey C. Bunn unpacks the history of this device and explores the interesting and often surprising connection between technology and popular culture. The lie detector figures prominently in many headline-producing criminal cases, including one of the most infamous in modern memory: the O.J. Simpson murder trial. The use of the lie detector in this and other cases brings up many intriguing questions that Bunn addresses in this work: How did the lie detector become so important? Who uses it? How reliable are its results? Bunn reveals just how difficult it is to answer this last question. A lie detector expert concluded that O.J. Simpson was “one hundred percent lying” in a video recording in which he proclaimed his innocence; a tabloid newspaper subjected the same recording to a second round of evaluation, which determined Simpson to be “absolutely truthful.” Lie detectors and other truth-telling machines became deeply embedded in American popular culture after the Charles Lindbergh “crime of the century” in 1935. Since then, they have factored into the Anita Hill–Clarence Thomas sexual harrassment controversy and such high-profile criminal cases as the Oklahoma City and Atlanta Olympics bombings. Well-known brands Isuzu, Pepsi Cola, and Snapple have advertised their products with the help of the “truth machine,” and the device has also appeared in countless movies and television shows. Bunn finds fascinating the lie detector’s ability to straddle the realms of rational science and sheer fantasy. He examines how the machine emerged as a technology of truth, transporting readers back to the obscure origins of criminology itself, ultimately concluding that the lie detector owes as much to popular culture as it does to factual science.

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