Invention in fact and fiction

by Gabriel C.

While most of us will never create a brilliant new machine that will change the world in our garage, I think we can all appreciate the thrill and excitement of the inventor. I love reading stories about the process of invention, whether they are true histories or invented themselves! 

For true histories of inventions, my first choice would be David McCullough’s epic story of the Wright Brothers, especially for how far it goes beyond the basics everyone already knows. Of course, it is always good to read another side of the story, questioning how successful the Wright Brothers really were… . Another excellent saga of a particular invention is the story of the bicycle, which is best experienced with as many pictures as possibleOverviews of key inventions are fun, but sometimes it’s also fun to read histories of more obscure inventions.

Another angle on the subject is to read the biographies of inventors who created many of the technologies we use every day, such as Edison, Tesla, and Henry Ford. Some of the most interesting books about inventors talk about the friendships, rivalries, and communities of inventors that sparked even more ideas.

Of course, some of the most famous inventors are ones who never existed except in the imagination – but they are often no less influential! Many of the inventions which have changed the world first emerged in fiction: Jules Verne’s famous submarine and H.G. Wells’ chilling vision of the future of airborne warfare are some of the most accurate and interesting. Sometimes fiction writers came up with descriptions of an entire city of the future that contain an incredible number of details that are remarkably accurate.

And there are the inventions that are purely fiction – at least so far. H.G. Wells’ time machine (as well as many more recent versions), Isaac Asimov’s robots, and generation ships for interstellar travel.

What is your favorite invention to read about?  Share your comments below.


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