Friederich Klemm. A History of Western Technology. History of Science and Technology reprint series. Ames: Iowa State University Press (1954), 1991

Technology's earliest machines, from 12,000 to 20,000 year ago, were mammoth traps which required the felling of great trees. Klemm asserts that early man's magical thinking created a direct "casual" link from the image on the cave wall to the event itself. In the Neolithic age, tools included bone and stone implements: sickles, needles, choppers, spinning spindles, bow string drills, and saws. About 2000 BC stone tools are replaced by copper and bronze. History (proper) opens with the irrigation projects along the Nile. From 4,000 to 1200 BC, we find such tools as the wheel, bellows, and tongs. Systematic technology developments include mining, sailing ships, the brewing of beer, tanning, glass making, papyrus, and the potter's wheel. Klemm quotes Vitruvius, who claims that a good architecht has a knowledge of drawing, letters, geometry, optics, arithmetic, philosophy, music, law, astrology and astronomy. (Vitruvius explains how each of these skills are used in creating buildings).

Klemm argues that the fragmentation of the West after the Roman empire encouraged competition between cities and small states. Math and technology flowed from the Ottomans to the West. He focuses on the church as a place to foster learning and science. Aquinas, by arguing that Aristotlean thinking could be combined with Christian cosmos, created a single world-picture in which God was the summit of the whole. There could be no contradiction between revealed and scientific truth. Klemm, then, places the seeds of the Renaissance and the scientific revolution in the Middle Ages. (56) Klemm offers Islamic fountains and also an example of an Islamic windmill (with diagram) that is so designed as to rotate and catch every breeze, and has channels built into the stone to increase the power of the air. He notes that iron casting was a great invention of the Middle Ages, developed in the Rhineland. Master gunsmiths became a title and role.

Klemm says that Renaissance technology has a "blurred" quality: half medieval, half something new (although inspired by classical antiquity). He quotes Leon Baptista Alberti, an all-rounder who was an architect who wrote out the theory of domes, as well as arches and bridges. And who can forget the wonderful letter of Leonardo Da Vinci to the Duke of Sforza offering his services, his portable bridges, his trench-draining machines, his mining and sapping tunnels, his explosives, catapults, flame-resistant ships and wagons, and anything else that may be required. Also featured is Georg Agricola, whose 1556 De Re Metallica described the mining and foundry work of his day, defending it from its critics (metals cause and support war) and showing machines in use. Last but not least is the absorbing record of Hans Spaichl, the copper worker and lathe-maker of Nuremburg, who was not only paid for making new models and but also repeatedly censured for building and selling models of new machines to other guilds.

The Baroque period is characterized by dynamic developments in mathematics, theories about the physical world, and instrumentation, such as the air pump, the telescope, the barometer, the calculating machine, the pendulum clock and the thermometer. The theories of Galileo and Kepler are published, as well as the physical researches of Newton and Huygens. Supporting these developments is the founding of the Royal Society and Paris Academy as well as the creation of new journals. Fantasy plays a part in some of the projected projects (c.f. the many technology fantasy books). As regards lifeways, the waterwheel, windmill, sails and animals continued to provide power. The Calvinist heirs of the Reformation were most likely to be active in society, practically involved with technological money-making projects and with scientific inquiry. Patents and patent law date from this period. Near the end of the century Huygens's assistant Denis Papin who, through working on problems with gunpowder, hit on the steam engine in 1690. These technologies were first applied by Thomas Newcomen to support deeper mining and later to factories.

Christian influence wanes after the Thirty Years' War concludes. Thinkers continue work in mathematics and look for rules to govern the world. Klemm names Kant as the inheritor of Leibniz and the founder of new German Romanticism. Quantitative natural science, based on experiment and reason, became the standard procedure. Chemistry, while still far from its form now, begins to take its modern shape and leads to new ways to produce sulphuric acid and sodium carbonate. Enlightenment thinkers worked with (on the Continent) and against (in England) their respective governments in developing technology for governments. The need for more ore and coal led to early railroads and the desire to mass-produce cloth and metal goods to the placement of Watt double-acting steam engines in foundries and factories in the 1780 and 90s. But it was not all work; Frederick the Great complained to Voltaire that his local mathematical whiz couldn't calculate the pressure needed for a "garden" fountain.

Nineteenth century industrialization practically begs (or so it seems) the comparison between England and Germany. England proceeded by private or free enterprise, but in Germany industrialization was carried by the state. Railroads and telegraphs are the key innovations that transform lifeways permanently. Light for factories - day and night - change the quality and pace of work. And a large middle class - complete with luxuries -- begins to form in America. Henry Maudslay is the "father" of machine tools: get rid of every pound of material you can do without… put to yourself the question, "What business has it to be there?" "There is a right way and wrong way of doing everything." (p. 283-286 Among Klemm's selections, he's one of my favorites, after 'consultant' Leonardo). More famous names include Charles Babbage, of naval gunnery and computation fame. Factory riots begin in this era - (1820) - Luddites don't take too long to grow. At this time the German Polytechnic Schools begin (1825), fostering scientifically cultivated technology which advanced the industrial movement in Europe.

Americans dominate the second half of the nineteenth and 20th centuries. Labor shortages, industrial espionage, and nothing of a guild or technological system prior to the Enlightenment (skipping Native American technologies) allowed for explosive growth in agriculture, transportation and mass production. Ford tells in his autobiography of the first day in 1913 when he tried the moving assembly line. Just prior to that, the Wright brothers had joined the international interest in flying, and developed a machine with engine and without a balloon component that, in fact, flew. Klemm ends on the machine age, presciently noting the profound changes to come in life and work with feedback and control systems, cost-accounting and computers.