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How Invention Happens

Gavin Weightman

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This witty and inspiring book chronicles the long history of discovery and ingenuity which gave rise to a “eureka moment” when a dream of invention became a reality for the first time

Tracing the long pre-history of five twentieth-century inventions which have transformed our lives, Gavin Weightman reveals a fantastic cast of scientists and inspired amateurs whose ingenuity has given us the airplane, television, bar code, personal computer, and mobile phone. Not one of these inventions can be attributed to a lone genius who experiences a moment of inspiration. Nearly all innovations exist in the imagination before they are finally made to work by the hard graft of inventors who draw on the discoveries of others.
While the discoveries of scientists have provided vital knowledge which has made innovation possible, it is a revelation of Weightman’s study that it is more often than not the amateur who enjoys the “eureka moment” when an invention works for the first time. Filled with fascinating stories of struggle, rivalry, and the ingenuity of both famous inventors and hundreds of forgotten people, Weightman’s captivating work is a triumph of storytelling that offers a fresh take on the making of our modern world.

Gavin Weightman is a journalist, historian, and former documentary filmmaker. He has published more than twenty books, including The Frozen Water Trade: A True Story and Children of the Light: How Electricity Changed Britain Forever. He lives in London.

“Smart technology history that's as fun and readable as it is seriously informative.”—Kirkus Reviews

"Eureka gave me much pleasure and made me prouder than ever to be called an inventor. Gavin Weightman focuses on five inventions that define our lives, descriving the tortuous path to success of each and dissecting in fascinating detail the worlds from whihc they emerged: not professional laboratories or big business or industry, but lne individuals with an idea who were uninhibited by a scientific community telling them it could not be done. I have always said "there is an invention in all of us". This book not only amuses and informs, but will give heart to anyone who has ideas of their own."—Trevor Baylis, CBE, OBE 

"Gavin Weightman’s book is a gem. He takes five icons of modern technology – the aeroplane, the television, the bar code, the personal computer, and the mobile phone – and shows that their histories and inventions are wonderfully complex and historically rich. He explains complicated science and technology with great facility. Who would have thought that the history of the bar code could be so fascinating?"—William Bynum, author of of A Little History of Science

'From the early daring airborne adventures of "the Flying Man" to Charles Francis Jenkins’ "phantoscope", Gavin Weightman’s book is an inspiring story of enthusiastic amateur inventors and unsung pioneers. Often self-taught and short of funds, they had the imagination and determination to keep on with their experiments, undeterred by the risk of being labelled cranks or crackpots. Their work ultimately led to the five world-changing inventions Weightman takes as his starting point. Putting these visionaries centre-stage, he leads us through the maze of fascinating experiments, breakthroughs, and occasional disasters that led to the "Eureka!" moments.' - Julie Halls, author of Inventions That Didn't Change the World

"…The book is sweetly written, carried along by unobtrusive good humour, a deep intuition for the history of ideas and a liberal salting of steam-punk esoterica.’—Oliver Moody, the Times.

Eureka is an informative look at the nature of invention and, equally important, it is an entertaining, well-written and accessible account full of wonderful stories, colorful characters and little-known events, bringing a fresh perspective and appreciation for technologies that many now take for granted.”—Shelf Awareness

“An excellent book for those interested in the early history of flight, television, computers, or cell phones.”—Library Journal

"What a joy it was to discover Eureka! I read this book with great pleasure, savouring equally the stories of surprisingly circuitous technological development and the uncommonly interesting human beings involved."—Henry Petroski, author of The Essential Engineer and The House with Sixteen Handmade Doors
ISBN: 9780300228854
Publication Date: September 26, 2017
280 pages, 5 11/16 x 9
12 pp. b/w illus.
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