Journal of Technology Education

Journal of Technology Education

Current Editor: Chris Merrill,
Previous Editors: Mark Sanders 1989-1997; James LaPorte: 1997-2010

As an open access journal, the JTE does not charge fees for authors to publish or readers to access.

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Volume 3, Number 2
Spring 1992

               Book Reviews
                         The History and Influence of Technology
                         Hughes, Thomas P. (1989). American genesis:
                         A century of invention and technological enthusiasm,
                         1870 - 1970. New York: Penguin Books, $10.95 (paperback),
                         529 pp. (ISBN 0-14-00-9741-4).
                         Marcus, Alan I., Howard P. Segal (1989). Technology in
                         America: A brief history. New York: Harcourt, Brace
                         Jovanovich, Publishers, $14.95 (paperback), 380 pp.
                         (ISBN 0-15- 589762-4).
                         McGinn, Robert E. (1991). Science, technology, and society.
                         Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, $19.40 (paperback),
                         302 pp., (ISBN 0-13-794736-4).
                         Pacey, Arnold (1990). Technology in world civilization.
                         Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, $9.95 (paperback), 238 pp.
                         (ISBN 0-262-66072-5).
                         Pursell, Carroll W. Jr., Ed. (1990). Technology in
                         America: A history of individuals and ideas. Cambridge,
                         MA: MIT Press, 2nd ed., $11.95 (paperback), 319 pp.
                         (ISBN 0-262-66049-0).
                         Reviewed by Dennis W. Cheek
                             These five books, all available in paperback, are part
                         of a growing and intersecting corpus of scholarship that
                         will enlighten technology educators at all levels -
                         elementary through post-doctoral studies. Two books provide
                         a very broad base from which to consider the other
                         contributions, which focus on the history of technology in
                         America. The five volumes as a set, make a wonderful
                         resource library for any technology teacher seeking to
                         understand technology within the contexts of American
                         history and global interdependence.
                             McGinn's contribution to the well-known and highly
                         acclaimed Prentice Hall Foundations of Modern Sociology
                         Series, is the best introductory sociology of science and
                         technology textbook in English. The author is department
                         chair of the Values, Technology, Science and Society (VTSS)
                         Program at Stanford University. The nature, contexts, and
                         relationships between science and technology are briefly
                         explained. Modern theories of science and technology in
                         society are presented to form a context for topics in the
                         remainder of the book. The final two sections consider the
                         influence of science and technology on modern society and
                         the impact of modern society on science and technology. An
                         appendix briefly introduces the reader to the growing STS
                             The sociological approach of McGinn is nicely
                         complimented by Pacey's historical tour de force which looks
                         at technology over a thousand year period of world
                         civilization. A singular contribution is his emphasis upon
                         the adaption of technology to particular cultures and
                         peoples. Pacey presents many examples of the diffusion and
                         transformation of technology from Asia and Africa to Europe
                         and cases where the diffusion occurred in the reverse
                         direction. His informed criticism of naive technology
                         transfer from industrialized to nonindustrialized nations is
                             What then of technology in America? The reviewer knows
                         of no better starting point to pursue general studies in
                         this arena than the recent works by Hughes, Marcus and
                         Segal, and Pursell. The broadest perspective is that of
                         Marcus and Segal who deliver just what the book's subtitle
                         promises - a brief history. Within this handy tome, the
                         reader will find a concise yet encyclopedic account of
                         technology in America. The authors skillfully link
                         technologies to their underlying political, social, and
                         economic contexts, and establish systematization as a major
                         theme in American technological development. The technology
                         teacher will gain a new appreciation of how interwoven
                         technologies are with one another in both their origins and
                         subsequent evolution.
                             More detail about specific individuals instrumental in
                         the development of technology in America can be gleaned from
                         the very useful second edition of Pursell's edited volume. A
                         group of 22 eminent historians of American technology
                         present biographical vignettes of 21 key individuals and
                         their ideas. Instead of merely cataloguing of achievements,
                         each essay helps the reader see the individual within an
                         appropriate social and historical context. The essays are
                         non-technical in nature and many would be suitable for high
                         school technology students to read and consider.
                             For in-depth treatment of technology in America during
                         the last one hundred years, there is probably no better
                         treatment on the present market than American Genesis from
                         the pen of the noted University of Pennsylvania historian of
                         technology, Thomas P. Hughes. Taking "the world as artifact"
                         as his metaphor, Hughes tries to explain historically how we
                         have come to live and accept life in a technologically
                         fabricated world. He admirably succeeds in his goal to
                         produce not simply another history of technology in America
                         but a rich social history that considers technology's broad
                         impacts and pervasive influence on the culture, behavior,
                         and mores of modern America. The book breaks new ground with
                         bold new explanations and like all books of this type,
                         causes an informed reader to part company with the author at
                         certain points. Yet, that is one of the hallmarks of a
                         worthwhile book.
                             All five books enable the technology teacher to see
                         technology in a broader and deeper context than is often the
                         case. Each contributes worthwhile perspectives to anyone
                         seeking to think in fuller ways about technology and its
                         role in the modern world. All of these works are accompanied
                         by lists of additional readings, subject and author indices,
                         and period B & W photographs. Some also include diagrams
                         from the period under discussion. If you've been teaching
                         technology without much sense of its history or impact,
                         these books are sure guides that will enrich your teaching
                         and your thinking.
                         Dennis W. Cheek is Book Review Editor for the Journal of
                         Technology Education and Coordinator of Curriculum
                         Development, New York Science, Technology and Society

               Journal of Technology Education   Volume 3, Number 2       Spring 1992