Title: 101 Inventions That Changed the World
Author: Joshua Coltrane
Pages: 128
Reading Level: 10 & up
Star Rating: ★★★

Who doesn’t like inventions? We’d be pretty lost without them – imagine a world without machines, electricity, and electronics. Or even some of the basic things – tools like hammers and screwdrivers, wheels, and pulleys. Life would be pretty difficult, wouldn’t it?

In 101 Inventions That Changed the World, Joshua Coltrane applies his attention evenly over what would be considered huge modern breakthroughs – automobiles, computers, aviation, atomic energy, etc. – but also includes developments in clothes, food, and “basic” technology – things like zippers, mouthwash, can openers, Velcro, neckties, ketchup, and slinkies.

What was especially enjoyable to me is the fact that this book was published in 1995 and is thus nineteen years behind in technology. There is no mention of cell phones, of course (much less smartphones), and the fax machine is still treated as the bees knees of communication devices. CDs are the latest audio form (yep, no mp3s or ipods back then!), and products such as aspartame, anti-perspirants, and margarine are discussed without the health warnings that modern research would indicate to be necessary.

Anyway, here are a few of the fun facts that I learned.

– Alfred Nobel, founder of the Nobel Peace prize, accidentally killed his father in their lab while he experimented with dynamite!

– Mexican General Santa Anna, whose troops laid siege to the Alamo, was the man who introduced chewing gum to the United States. Now we chew ten million pounds of it per year!

– It’s common to say that sweat is stinky, but it’s actually not the perspiration itself that stinks – it’s all of the dead bacteria on your skin that releases the smell when it comes in contact with perspiration. Fascinating, right?

– Italians called eyeglasses “lentils for the eyes” because their appearance reminded Italians of the shape of legumes. This term was gradually shortened to just plain “lens”.

– During the Middle Ages, mirrors were considered a high art and were used as a status symbol – i.e., if you owned one, people knew you were rich!

The most disappointing part, of course, were the evolutionary references. They occurred mostly when the “basic” inventions – axles, wheels, candles, mirrors, knives, nails, etc. – were being discussed. There were about a dozen references total to different periods of “human evolution”.

‘Darn’ and ‘heck’ are each used.

Conclusion. Good-ish. Probably not the best book on inventions, but a fun bite-sized one.

Review © 2014 Laura Verret

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