[Thomas_J._Misa]_Leonardo_to_the_Internet_Technol(b-ok.xyz).pdf

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Unformatted text preview: LEONARDO TO THE INTERNET JOHNS HOPKINS STUDIES IN THE HISTORY OF TECHNOLOGY Merritt Roe Smith, Series Editor Leonardo to the Internet TECHNOLOGY & CULTURE FROM THE RENAISSANCE TO THE PRESENT SECOND EDITION THOMAS J. MISA © 2004, 2011 The Johns Hopkins University Press All rights reserved. Published 2011 Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 The Johns Hopkins University Press 2715 North Charles Street Baltimore, Maryland 21218-4363 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Misa, Thomas J. Leonardo to the Internet: technology and culture from the renaissance to the present / Thomas J. Misa. —2nd ed. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN-13: 978-1-4214-0154-6 (hardcover: alk. paper) ISBN-13: 978-1-4214-0153-9 (pbk.: alk. paper) ISBN-10: 1-4214-0154-1 (hardcover: alk. paper) ISBN-10: 1-4214-0153-3 (pbk: alk. paper) 1. Technology—History. 2. Technology and civilization. I. Title. T15.M575 2011 609.03—dc22 2010051496 A catalog record for this book is available from the British Library. Special discounts are available for bulk purchases of this book. For more information, please contact Special Sales at 410-516-6936 or [email protected] The Johns Hopkins University Press uses environmentally friendly book materials, including recycled text paper that is composed of at least 30 percent post-consumer waste, whenever possible. All of our book papers are acid-free, and our jackets and covers are printed on paper with recycled content. CONTENTS List of Figures and Tables Preface Acknowledgments 1 : Technologies of the Court, 1450–1600 2 : Techniques of Commerce, 1588–1740 3 : Geographies of Industry, 1740–1851 4 : Instruments of Empire, 1840–1914 5 : Science and Systems, 1870–1930 6 : Materials of Modernism, 1900–1950 7 : The Means of Destruction, 1936–1990 8 : Toward Global Culture, 1970–2001 9 : Paths to Insecurity, 2001–2010 10 : The Question of Technology Notes Notes on Sources Index FIGURES & TABLES FIGURES 1.1 Dome of the Florence Cathedral 1.2 Leonardo and the Military Revolution 1.3 The Gaze of Geometrical Perspective 1.4 Early Dutch-Style Printing Press 1.5 Agricola’s Lifting Crane 2.1 Dutch Herring Buss 2.2 Dutch Cargo Fluyt 2.3 Delivery of a Futures Contract 2.4 Secrets of Dutch Shipbuilding Revealed 2.5 Leiden’s High-Grade Textiles, 1630–1701 3.1 City of London 3.2 Port of London 3.3 London Brewery Vat 3.4 Porter Brewery 3.5 Manchester’s Union Street, 1829 3.6 Sheffield Cutlery at Crystal Palace, 1851 3.7 Mortality of Sheffield Grinders, 1841 3.8 Building the Crystal Palace, 1851 4.1 Indian Mutiny of 1857–58 4.2 Erecting the Indian Telegraph 4.3 Telegraph Lines between India and Europe, 1874 4.4 World Leaders in Railways, 1899 4.5 Gokteik Viaduct in Upper Burma 4.6 Bridging the Ganges River at Allahabad 4.7 Kimberley Diamond Mine, South Africa, ca. 1880 4.8 Building the Cape Town to Cairo Railway 4.9 Spanning the Zambesi River at Victoria Falls 5.1 Foreign Applications for U.S. Patents, 1883–1938 5.2 Consolidation of the German Chemical Industry, 1860–1925 5.3 Edison’s Pearl Street Station 5.4 Consolidation of U.S. Electrical Industry, 1876–96 5.5 The Electric City 5.6 Electric Turbines and the “Wealth of Nations” 5.7 MIT Network Analyzer 6.1 Flat Roofs and Ribbon Windows 6.2 Mass-Produced Window Glass 6.3 Dutch Modernism by J. J. P. Oud 6.4 The First “Modern” Factory 6.5 May Construction System in Frankfurt 6.6 Lihotzky’s Frankfurt Kitchen 7.1 Oak Ridge Uranium Factory 7.2 Hanford Works Plutonium Factory 7.3 Nagasaki Medical College Hospital, October 1945 7.4 Shippingport Nuclear Reactor 7.5 Whirlwind Computer Control Center 8.1 Coca-Colonization of Europe? 8.2 Capitalist McDonald’s in Eastern Europe 8.3 Internet Café 9.1 Systemic Risk in Paris, 1895 9.2 Interior of Southdale Mall, 2009 9.3 Suburban Sprawl outside Calgary, Alberta, 2007 9.4 U.S. Military Monitors Networks for Cyber Attacks, 2009 9.5 Gertrude Maersk 9.6 Panorama of the Port of Singapore TABLES 2.1 Dutch International Trade and Traffic Industries, 1661–1702 3.1 Steam and Water Power in Sheffield Steel Grinding, 1770–1865 5.1 MIT Electrical Engineering Curriculum for 1916 7.1 U.S. Integrated Circuit Production and Prices, 1962–68 PREFACE THIS BOOK EXPLORES the varied character of technologies over a long period of time, roughly the half-millennium from the Renaissance to the present. It spans the preindustrial past, the age of scientific, political, and industrial revolutions, as well as more recent topics such as imperialism, modernism, war, global culture, and security. Such a long duration seems well suited to provide a solid empirical base for exploring wide-ranging notions about technology in the final chapter. This study began years ago in an effort to understand the work of Leonardo da Vinci. A little background reading convinced me that the time-honored image of Leonardo as an artist and anatomist, who did some nice-looking technical drawings on the side, just did not capture his life. Leonardo spent his most active years working as a technologist and engineer. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that he did his famous paintings and strikingly realistic anatomy drawings in the periodic lulls between technology projects. I puzzled further over the character of Leonardo’s technical work. Was he really as some enthusiasts claimed the “prophet of automation,” the inventor of labor-saving machines (and such wonders as helicopters, airplanes, and automobiles) that catapulted Europe from the “dark ages” directly into the modern era? Thinking about these questions, I began to see a distinctive focus in Leonardo and in the numerous engineers with whom he shared notebook drawings and technical treatises. The technological activities of these Renaissance engineers related closely to the concerns of the Renaissance courts and city-states that commissioned their work. I failed to find Leonardo much concerned with labor-saving or “industrial” technologies, and for that matter few of his technological projects generated wealth at all. Quite the opposite. Leonardo’s technologies were typically wealth-consuming ones: the technologies of city building, courtly entertainments and dynastic display, and war making. The Renaissance court system was the conceptual key. While it is common knowledge that Johann Gutenberg invented the Western system of moveable type printing, it’s not well known that he himself was a court pensioner. Printing shops throughout the late Renaissance depended, to a surprising extent, on court-generated demand. Even printed books on technical subjects were objects of courtly patronage. I began to appreciate that Renaissance courts across Europe, in addition to their well-known support of famous artists, scientists, and philosophers, were at the time the dominant patrons of the most prominent technologists. These included royal courts in Spain and France, ambitious regional rulers in Italy, the papal court in Rome, and courtlike city-states such as Florence. The technical projects they commissioned—from the Florence Cathedral to the mechanical robots for courtly entertainment, as well as the printed works on science, history, philosophy, religion, and technology—created and themselves constituted Renaissance culture. This heady mix of technology, politics, and culture is the subject of chapter 1. There are good reasons to see the industrial revolution as a watershed in world history, but our time-worn inclination to seize on industrial technologies as the only ones that really matter has confounded a proper understanding of the great commercial expansion that followed the Renaissance. Chapter 2 discusses these developments. Economic historians persistently ask the same questions of the great Dutch Golden Age in the seventeenth century: how fast did the Dutch economy grow, and why didn’t it industrialize? The Dutch not only had rising per capita incomes and a healthy and diverse national economy; they were also the architects and chief beneficiaries of the first multicentered global economy. Again, on close inspection, I found a distinct character in Dutch technological activities. Commerce, like the courts, fostered distinctive if nonindustrial technologies. Dutch merchants and engineers were highly attuned to generating wealth, and they took active steps to sharpen their focus on making high-quality items with relatively high-paid labor. The typical Dutch cloth was not cheap cotton —the prototypical industrial product—but high-priced woolens, linens, and mohairs. Dutch technologies formed the sinews for their unprecedented international trading system, including shipbuilding, sugar-refining, instrument making, and innovations in finance like joint-stock companies and stockmarkets. I began not only to think of technologies located historically and spatially in a particular society, and shaped by that society’s ideas of what was possible or desirable but also to see how these technologies evolved to shape the society’s social and cultural developments. To capture this twoway influence, I took up the notion of distinct “eras” of technology and culture as a way of organizing the material for this book. This notion of distinct eras provides a kernel for new practical insight into our own social and cultural prospects. My view on technology argues against the common billiard-ball model propounded by many popular writers and journalists who see technologies coming from “outside” society and culture and having “impacts” on them—for good or ill. Indeed, the question whether technologies are “outside” a society or “within” it is a far from trivial matter. If technologies come from outside, the only critical agency open to us is slowing down their inevitable triumph—a rearguard action at best. By contrast, if technologies come from within society and are products of ongoing social processes we can in principle alter them—at least modestly— even as they change us. This book presents an extended empirical evaluation of this question. I will show, in many distinct eras, historical actors actively choosing and changing technologies in an effort to create or sustain their vision of the future (whatever this happened to be). With these issues in mind, I came to the industrial revolution in Britain with a new interest in comprehending “industrial society,” which I explore in chapter 3. The older view that the industrial revolution radically transformed Britain in a few decades around 1800, and soon forcibly propelled the world into the modern age, has just not stood the test of time. This version of the billiard-ball model of technology changing society is too simple. In recent years, historians have learned too much about the vast range of historical experiences during industrialization and the dynamics of industrial change and economic growth to sustain the older view of the industrial revolution. For example, we know now that surprisingly few industrial workers in industrial Britain actually labored in large-scale factories (only about one worker in ten), and that there were simply too few steam engines to do anything like “transform” the entire economy—until well into the nineteenth century. In a convulsion of skepticism and debunking, historians have all but thrown out the concept of an “industrial revolution.” I would like to revive it, for I think we can see a distinct and historically specific logic that shaped technologies during the early industrial revolution. In industrial-era Britain there were precious few Dutch-style technologists focusing on high-quality materials and high-paid labor. Instead, the predominant focus of British technologists was, let’s say, industrial: cutting costs, boosting output, and saving labor. Inventions of the era embodied these socioeconomic goals. Cheap cotton cloth, and lots of it, made by ill-paid factory “hands,” was a characteristic product of industrial-era Britain. If mechanizing industry was not the highest calling in life, as Victorian moralists repeatedly warned, it was nevertheless a central and defining purpose for inventors, engineers, and industrialists of the time. Beyond Britain, commentators and technologists sometimes looked to copy British models of industry but more frequently adapted industrial technologies to their own economic and social contexts. The result was a variety of “paths” through the industrial revolution. Given these ideas about court, commerce, and industry as defining purposes for technology, I began thinking about what helped define technologies in the next two centuries, closer to home as it were. The task became more difficult. It was impossible to isolate a single distinct “type” of society with a corresponding set of technologies. The legacy of the industrial revolution, it seemed, was not a single “industrial society” with a fixed relationship to technology but rather a multidimensional society with a variety of purposes for technology. Between the middle decades of the nineteenth century and the early decades of the twentieth, we can identify at least three varied purposes—the themes of chapters 4, 5 and 6. The first of these technology-intensive activities to appear in full flower was that of empire, the effort by Europeans and North Americans to extend economic and political control over wide stretches of land abroad or at home. This is the subject of chapter 4. Imperialists faced unprecedented problems in penetrating unfamiliar lands, often in the face of determined resistance by native peoples, and in consolidating military and administrative control over these lands and their peoples. Steamships, telegraphs, and transcontinental railroads were among the technologies that made imperialism effective and affordable. The “gunboat” diplomacy, deployed by the British with great success in China, India, and Africa against poorly armed native peoples, depended on the construction of iron-hulled, steam-driven, shallow-draft vessels that were heavily armed. (Also in the mid-nineteenth century, and in parallel with steamboats, the use of quinine gave Europeans for the first time reasonable odds against endemic malaria in Africa and Asia.) It would be foolish not to recognize the economic dimensions of the imperialist venture, since Britain’s factory-made cotton textiles were shipped off to captive markets in India to be exchanged for tea and raw cotton (with a side-trade in opium). All the same, more was at play during the imperial era than just the disposing of surplus factory goods or the importing of cheap raw materials, important though these were. No one at the time tried to justify or defend empire in strictly economic terms. Feelings of national and imperial pride, the presumed imperatives of linking colonies to the homeland, the often-bizarre economics of empire (where for instance tremendously expensive steamboats or railroads “saved” money in transporting military forces or colonial officials)—these were the ways Britain’s imperialists coaxed taxpayers’ money for such extravagant ventures as the round-the-world telegraph system, easily the most demanding high-technology effort of the nineteenth century. Long-distance repeating telegraphs, efficient coal-burning steamships, and undersea telegraph cables tempted imperial officials to exert oversight and control over far-flung possessions. Many imperialists credited the telegraph network with “saving” British rule in India during the Mutiny of 1857-58. The same reasoning—national pride, imperial imperatives, and the economics of empire—helps understand the urgency behind the transcontinental railroads in India, North America, and South Africa. Economics traditionally understood had little to do with empire or imperialera technologies. A second impulse in technology gathering force from the 1870s onward was in the application of science to industry and the building of large systems of technology, the subject of chapter 5. For the first time, in the rise of the science-based chemical and electrical industries, scientific knowledge became as important as land, labor, and capital as a “factor” of production. The new importance of science led to the rise of fundamentally new social institutions: research-based universities (universities per se were centuries old), government research institutes, and industrial research-and-development laboratories, all of which appeared on a large scale in Germany before 1900 and in the United States a little later. The rise of the chemical, electrical, steel, and petroleum industries, and the associated large corporations that funded and managed them, constituted a “second” industrial revolution. Britain, the first industrial nation, played a surprisingly small role in the movement. A new intensification of interactions between technology, aesthetics, and consumption, and its configuration in the modern movement, clarifies the ways technology in the twentieth century formed the backdrop of our productive apparatus as well as the foreground of our daily lives. The twentieth-century modern movement was built on technological capabilities developed during the science-and-systems era and yet led to new and distinctive cultural results, explored in chapter 6. The achievement around 1900 of mass-produced steel, glass, and other “modern materials” reshaped the aesthetic experience of working or walking in our cities and living in our homes. These materials were the material precondition and artistic inspiration for the modern movement in art and architecture between 1900 and 1950. Modernism led not only to avant-garde designs for public-housing blocks and office buildings but also to museums, hospitals, and schools. The movement, through its association with German household reformers and with the Museum of Modern Art and other self-appointed arbiters of “good taste,” shaped public fascination with new modernist designs for domestic appliances. These middle chapters, besides setting down some engaging stories, advance my sustained argument concerning the “question of technology.” Highly articulate figures—the artists, architects, and household reformers of the modern movement—self-consciously embraced technology to achieve their positive visions of housing the poor, embracing modern urban life, and even what they saw as enhancing modern society’s cultural and spiritual development. Even if you find the modernists’ enthusiasm for technology a bit naïve today, you must also allow that theirs was a broad-gauged impulse that encouraged specific technologies as well as shaped cultural developments. And if you are wondering, mine is not a relentlessly optimistic worldview. You will also find in these middle chapters industrial technologies implicated in filthy disease-ridden cities and imperial technologies implicated in slaughtering natives in India and North America. Technology has been and can be a potent agent in disciplining and dominating. I also discuss the modernists’ troubling embrace of a fixed “method” of creativity. My thinking on this book began during the waning days of the Cold War. Since then, it has become easier to see clearly how important the superpowers’ military services were in finding and funding technologies of real or imagined military utility. The “command economies” that took shape during World War II fanned the development of countless technological innovations, of which atomic power, radar, and computers are only the bestknown examples, as chapter 7 recounts. In these Cold War decades, scientists and engineers learned that the military services had the deepest pockets of all technology patrons. For dreamers and schemers of the most massive technology projects, the military was the main chance. The story is told of the Nazi rocket scientist Werner von Braun preparing his laboratory’s surrender in the chaotic closing days of World War II. “Most of the scientists were frightened of the Russians,...
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