This article examines the social embedding of technical inventions in Britain and France in the second half of the eighteenth century. Small-scale artefacts to improve everyday life marked a new relationship between techniques, public culture, and forces of nature. The ways that micro-inventions such as domestic devices were disseminated through print media, models, and exhibitions demonstrate how inventive strategies and public expectations affected innovation. Producers and users interacted to shape market inventions. Solutions to the problem of ventilation highlight how the dynamics of scale shaped technical inventions, enabling their promotion as multidimensional objects of social reform. Indeed, conceptualizing technologies as scalable transformed prior perceptions of humans' ability to harness nature (such as making noxious air breathable). Civic improvements and industrial innovation also fostered a new materiality, changing how societies perceived their natural environment as well as their impact on it.


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pp. 1076-1107
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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