The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History since 1900

By David Edgerton

From the books of H.G. Wells to the click releases of NASA, we're awash in clichéd claims approximately excessive technology's skill to alter the process heritage. Now, in The surprise of the Old, David Edgerton bargains a startling new and clean mind set concerning the background of expertise, extensively revising our principles in regards to the interplay of expertise and society some time past and within the current. He demanding situations us to view the background of expertise when it comes to what daily humans have really used-and proceed to use-rather than simply refined innovations. certainly, many hugely touted applied sciences, from the V-2 rocket to the Concorde jet, were high priced mess ups, whereas many mundane discoveries, like corrugated iron, turn into highly very important around the globe. Edgerton reassesses the importance of such acclaimed innovations because the capsule and data expertise, and underscores the ongoing value of unheralded know-how, debunking many notions in regards to the implications of the "information age." A provocative historical past, The surprise of the Old offers a wholly new approach of taking a look traditionally on the dating among invention and innovation.

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The hydrogenation of nitrogen to make ammonia, pioneered by means of the German chemical enterprise BASF sooner than and through the nice warfare, was once of large significance to nationwide strength, not just since it created in the community produced nitrogen fertiliser, but additionally simply because nitrate was once a big resource of explosives. In 1913 BASF started creation at Oppau of artificial ammonia, and a brand new plant was once equipped at Leuna in 1917. Coke, steam and air have been the uncooked fabrics. within the warfare Oppau constructed and operated the method for making nitrate from ammonia. No nice energy, it appeared, should be with out ‘synthetic ammonia’, and governments sought to increase the Haber-Bosch and different strategies (for there have been a couple of alternative routes of constructing man made fertilisers). In Britain, for instance, artificial ammonia, turned crucial to the hot firm, Imperial Chemical Industries, based in 1926, taking on an first and foremost state-sponsored undertaking to make artificial 119 surprise of outdated. indb 119 22/11/07 13:05:34 the surprise of the outdated ammonia and nitrates at Billingham. but artificial nitrogen fertiliser (mostly, yet not just Haber-Bosch) was once to turn into terribly worldwide, and certainly an of profound value, relatively after the second one international battle. Nitrate was once poured directly to the world’s fields after 1945, rather a lot in order that, through the tip of the century, a few one-third of the nitrogen in human nutrition got here from human-made nitrate. might be crucial use of hydrogenation by way of its nationwide institutions was once the hydrogenation of coal. within the wealthy international locations of the realm, coal was once the dominant resource of strength of the 1st half the 20th century. but, in a short time petroleum grew to become very important as a resource of strength for autos, vans and aeroplanes (petrol) and ships (diesel and gasoline oil). The prime western ecu countries didn't have their very own resources of provide – the most manufacturers have been the united states, Russia, Romania and Mexico. The German chemist Friedrich Bergius built procedures for making affordable hydrogen from coal; he then hydrogenated heavy oils, and in 1913, coal. Bergius begun construction a plant in Rheinau in 1915, to provide his oil-from-coal. this huge undertaking used to be launched into simply because Germany used to be approximately to develop into fatally in need of petrol for the warfare attempt. yet Germany and Austria defeated Romania in 1916, and have been therefore capable of safe entry to its large petroleum creation. The long and highly pricey Rheinau company was once no longer accomplished prior to 1924. It was once financed through numerous deepest agencies, together with Royal Dutch Shell after which BASF. IG Farben (a merger of the most German chemical agencies together with BASF) constructed a variation of Bergius, with diverse catalysts and commenced development a plant at Leuna in 1927 (where it had hydrogen potential for man made ammonia production). This formidable new venture introduced jointly the most German chemical businesses within the Twenties. by means of 1931 300,000 hundreds petroleum have been being produced (or in oil terminology, 2. five million barrels) each year. For the Nazis, self-sufficiency in gas used to be a best precedence less than the four-year plan of 1936, and the institution of synthetic-oil creation used to be a key point in the direction of the success of that target.

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