Patent system system integration has altered the balance between the interests of patent holders and society. Two turning points in this process are examined: the 1883 Paris Convention, and the1978 launch of the Patent Cooperation Treaty and the European Patent Convention. The article shows how these treaties evolved and how further integration occurred after their implementation, following unforeseen/unintended paths stemming partly from technological change. Overall, global patent system integration has increased the territorial reach of patents, curtailed national restrictions on their use, enhanced rights of patent applicants/holders, and broadened patentability definitions. Corporations, the dominant patent holders, are the principal beneficiaries of these changes. Patents have become powerful, sometimes hegemonic tools for corporations to control technology, people, and markets on a global scale. A case study shows how Monsanto used its European patents on GM soybeans to make Argentina change its patent laws, to the perceived detriment of Argentine farmers.
The United States and Chile experienced diplomatic tensions that were heightened by the rapid movement of messages through the recently built international telegraph network. Government officials in Washington and Santiago engaged in heated telegraphic exchanges while newspapers from New York to San Francisco emphasized this crisis and published telegraphed reports on military preparations and the possibility of war. Critics of the press pointed out the exaggerations and falsehoods in these reports and warned of the perils in making crucial decisions in the new era of unprecedented speed in communications. Officials in Washington debated the growing crisis. Congressman James Blount deplored “the confusion provoked by instantaneous discussion.” Taking advantage of the confusion, President Benjamin Harrison exploited the quick movement of cabled messages and abandoned standard diplomatic practice to impose a deadline in the negotiations with the Chilean government. Harrison’s aggressive use of international communications forced the Chilean government to make prompt concessions.
As RCA made its initial foray into the field of solid-state electronics in the late 1940s, it deliberately broke down the boundary between the laboratory and the factory, showing extraordinary organizational flexibility in the early years of its transistor R&D program. By the end of the 1950s, however, RCA was utterly compartmentalized, as the laboratory moved into advanced research of cutting-edge devices and the operating divisions engaged in developmental work on automating the transistor assembly process. This article situates this transition within the context of the broader changes in the U.S. political economy. Political, economic, and technological factors—including postwar demobilization, rising military funding for industrial R&D, antitrust consent decrees, and rapid technical change—account for the rise and fall of organizational flexibility at RCA during the 1950s.
Beginning in San Francisco in 1873, cable railways spread to nearly every large American city and several overseas. Los Angeles had three systems, the most successful of which began operation on Temple Street in 1886. Frederick Wood and John Fowler, who managed the Temple Street Cable Railway, were responsible for several mechanical innovations that they hoped would be adopted by other lines. To demonstrate these, they kept a section of cable track and conduit above ground, and in the summer of 1892 they posed alongside this section. Unfortunately—but probably not yet obvious to them—by 1892 cable railways were on the verge of being rendered obsolete by Frank Sprague's system of electric traction and thus the demand for mechanical novelty had vanished. Total cable railway mileage nationwide peaked the next year at 305; by the time the Temple Street line was converted to electricity in 1902 the total was down to 100, and ten years after that it was down to 20, nearly all of it on the steep hills of San Francisco. For cable-car enthusiasts like Wood and Fowler, Sprague had spoiled the fun.
This essay reviews 1951 classic study by George Rogers Taylor, The Transportation Revolution, 1815–1860. From the perspective of more than fifty years, the book has held up very well and it continues to provide the best introduction to the development and consequences of transportation changes in the nineteenth-century United States. But Taylor's work also surveyed other and larger general patterns of economic and technological development in the years before the Civil War, demonstrating the influence of currents within field of economic history during the formative years of the emerging discipline of the history of technology.
In 1933 when Germany under Hitler dismissed all academics with Jewish ancestry and anti-Nazi leanings, Turkey, a young republic, was in the midst of a major modernization program, led by Ataturk, its founding father. Beginning that very year, its government invited a large number of them to take prestigious positions in its few existing colleges and other state establishments, in particular help with reforming its higher education and other public institutions. Continued through WWII, this effort not only saved the lives of many German Jewish professors and their knowledge and art but also benefited the host country immensely. This book brings to light the story of these émigré professors and tells about their contributions to science, medicine, engineering, art, literature, and music in Turkey.