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America the Ingenious: How a Nation of Dreamers, Immigrants, and Tinkerers Changed the World

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“Among the many rewards of America the Ingenious, Kevin Baker’s survey of Yankee know-how, is stumbling on its buried nuggets. . . . Baker examines a wide range of the achievements that have made, and still make, America great again—and again.” —The Wall Street Journal All made in America: The skyscraper and subway car. The telephone and telegraph. The safety elevator and “Among the many rewards of America the Ingenious, Kevin Baker’s survey of Yankee know-how, is stumbling on its buried nuggets. . . . Baker examines a wide range of the achievements that have made, and still make, America great again—and again.” —The Wall Street Journal All made in America: The skyscraper and subway car. The telephone and telegraph. The safety elevator and safety pin. Plus the microprocessor, amusement park, MRI, supermarket, Pennsylvania rifle, and Tennessee Valley Authority. Not to mention the city of Chicago or jazz or that magnificent Golden Gate Bridge.   What is it about America that makes it a nation of inventors, tinkerers, researchers, and adventurers—obsessive pursuers of the never-before-created? And, equally, what is it that makes America such a fertile place to explore, discover, and launch the next big thing?   In America the Ingenious, bestselling author Kevin Baker brings his gift of storytelling and eye for historical detail to the grand, and grandly entertaining, tale of American innovation. Here are the Edisons and Bells and Carnegies, and the stories of how they followed their passions and changed our world. And also the less celebrated, like Jacob Youphes and Loeb Strauss, two Jewish immigrants from Germany who transformed the way at least half the world now dresses (hint: Levi Strauss). And Leo Fender, who couldn’t play a note of music, midwifing rock ’n’ roll through his solid-body electric guitar and amplifier. And the many women who weren’t legally recognized as inventors, but who created things to make their lives easier that we use every day—like Josephine Cochran, inventor of the dishwasher, or Marion O’Brien Donovan, who invented a waterproof diaper cover. Or a guy with the improbable name of Philo Farnsworth, who, with his invention of television, upended communication as significantly as Gutenberg did.   At a time when America struggles with different visions of what it wants to be, America the Ingenious shows the extraordinary power of what works: how immigration leads to innovation, what a strong government and strong public education mean to a climate of positive practical change, and why taking the long view instead of looking for short-term gain pays off many times over, not only for investors and inventors, but for the rest of us whose lives are made better by the new.   America and its nation of immigrants have excelled at taking ideas from anywhere and transforming them into the startling, often unexpectedly beautiful creations that have shaped our world. This is that story.  


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“Among the many rewards of America the Ingenious, Kevin Baker’s survey of Yankee know-how, is stumbling on its buried nuggets. . . . Baker examines a wide range of the achievements that have made, and still make, America great again—and again.” —The Wall Street Journal All made in America: The skyscraper and subway car. The telephone and telegraph. The safety elevator and “Among the many rewards of America the Ingenious, Kevin Baker’s survey of Yankee know-how, is stumbling on its buried nuggets. . . . Baker examines a wide range of the achievements that have made, and still make, America great again—and again.” —The Wall Street Journal All made in America: The skyscraper and subway car. The telephone and telegraph. The safety elevator and safety pin. Plus the microprocessor, amusement park, MRI, supermarket, Pennsylvania rifle, and Tennessee Valley Authority. Not to mention the city of Chicago or jazz or that magnificent Golden Gate Bridge.   What is it about America that makes it a nation of inventors, tinkerers, researchers, and adventurers—obsessive pursuers of the never-before-created? And, equally, what is it that makes America such a fertile place to explore, discover, and launch the next big thing?   In America the Ingenious, bestselling author Kevin Baker brings his gift of storytelling and eye for historical detail to the grand, and grandly entertaining, tale of American innovation. Here are the Edisons and Bells and Carnegies, and the stories of how they followed their passions and changed our world. And also the less celebrated, like Jacob Youphes and Loeb Strauss, two Jewish immigrants from Germany who transformed the way at least half the world now dresses (hint: Levi Strauss). And Leo Fender, who couldn’t play a note of music, midwifing rock ’n’ roll through his solid-body electric guitar and amplifier. And the many women who weren’t legally recognized as inventors, but who created things to make their lives easier that we use every day—like Josephine Cochran, inventor of the dishwasher, or Marion O’Brien Donovan, who invented a waterproof diaper cover. Or a guy with the improbable name of Philo Farnsworth, who, with his invention of television, upended communication as significantly as Gutenberg did.   At a time when America struggles with different visions of what it wants to be, America the Ingenious shows the extraordinary power of what works: how immigration leads to innovation, what a strong government and strong public education mean to a climate of positive practical change, and why taking the long view instead of looking for short-term gain pays off many times over, not only for investors and inventors, but for the rest of us whose lives are made better by the new.   America and its nation of immigrants have excelled at taking ideas from anywhere and transforming them into the startling, often unexpectedly beautiful creations that have shaped our world. This is that story.  

30 review for America the Ingenious: How a Nation of Dreamers, Immigrants, and Tinkerers Changed the World

  1. 5 out of 5

    Dee Arr

    This could easily have been a five star book. The author tackles a tough subject, attempting to choose the best things that have been invented by Americans (or, if not invented by Americans, how a good idea was added to and turned into something better). The chosen stories are highly enlightening and entertaining. While I would have preferred paintings or photos rather than the pen and ink drawings at the beginning of each chapter, the consistency of artwork was a positive. Rather than a march t This could easily have been a five star book. The author tackles a tough subject, attempting to choose the best things that have been invented by Americans (or, if not invented by Americans, how a good idea was added to and turned into something better). The chosen stories are highly enlightening and entertaining. While I would have preferred paintings or photos rather than the pen and ink drawings at the beginning of each chapter, the consistency of artwork was a positive. Rather than a march through history, author Kevin Baker has chosen to group inventions together, such as Computing, Apparel, Curing, Trains, etc., and I thought this was a good choice. "America the Ingenious" is the title, with "How a nation of dreamers, immigrants, and tinkerers changed the world" as the subtitle. In his introduction to the book, Mr. Baker tells us the inventions were "...inspired, shaped, and made possible by the character of our country." He credits freedom as a key to our inventiveness, and recognizes "...the 'ordinary' people who made our progress a reality. I was impressed, and anticipated a fantastic book. Unfortunately, Mr. Baker unnecessarily injected politics into some of the stories. The chapter describing the Tennessee Valley Authority centered around Progressive Republican George Norris and his battles with his own party. Worse were the constant references to the race or skin color of the inventors. Worse than that were the accusations of racism and bigotry leveled against some of the inventors as part of their introduction, with no facts to back up the statements. Based upon the book’s introduction, I understood the book was about Americans who had given back to their fellow man. I have great respect for all the inventors in this book, and when all is said and done, that respect does not increase or lessen based upon the color of their skin, nor their politics or personal beliefs. I am not sure of Mr. Baker’s intentions, but his constant harangues from the soapbox were bothersome and a distraction. Overall: An interesting book which discusses inventions that affected the people living then as well as those of us living now, marred slightly when the author veers from his own stated goals. Four stars.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Gray

    Very interesting selection of key contributions to the growth of America. This is not a top 20 opinion and the selection of topics can certainly be debated, it is an interesting, easy to read, informative summary of several key contributions to America’s growth. A fun and easy read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tomás Marquez

    This book is a hub for new reads If you want to learn something about history, or perhaps about the social impact of some of America’s most beloved jewels, look no further. I was deeply surprised about the canal works on New York and Chicago, and their impact in the American economy. Other beautiful topics covered by the book were the Golden Gate Bridge, the Los Ángeles Aqueduct, among others. You’ll find amazing chapters in this book, try it and feel proud about the men and women that build our w This book is a hub for new reads If you want to learn something about history, or perhaps about the social impact of some of America’s most beloved jewels, look no further. I was deeply surprised about the canal works on New York and Chicago, and their impact in the American economy. Other beautiful topics covered by the book were the Golden Gate Bridge, the Los Ángeles Aqueduct, among others. You’ll find amazing chapters in this book, try it and feel proud about the men and women that build our world.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Robert Smith

    Mildly interesting factoids You may find new facts about a diverse collection of inventions, but be very careful about their veracity! For example, the Erie Canal does not go down to 363 feet below sea level; there were many more than “ten manned and unmanned missions” over 8 years of the space program; ‘dit’ and ‘dah’ are reversed in Morse Code; the newest pacemakers are implanted through the leg, but don’t control the heart FROM there; and many more. Definitely don’t use this as a source for a Mildly interesting factoids You may find new facts about a diverse collection of inventions, but be very careful about their veracity! For example, the Erie Canal does not go down to 363 feet below sea level; there were many more than “ten manned and unmanned missions” over 8 years of the space program; ‘dit’ and ‘dah’ are reversed in Morse Code; the newest pacemakers are implanted through the leg, but don’t control the heart FROM there; and many more. Definitely don’t use this as a source for a school paper!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Don LeClair

    Entertaining and informative history of American ingenuity This is a quick and fun read. It addresses many different inventions by Americans and immigrants to America. Essentially it’s a collection of short stories and there’s a short recap of each one at the end. He closes with a nice story on inventing America itself. I really enjoyed the positive enthusiasm with which it was written.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Deb Holden

    All things invented by Americans done in 2-4 page synopses. Very easy to read and some will surprise you. If you don’t want to read about a subject, just move on to the next one. I did read them all. Some are fascinating and others less so. Probably would have rated this book a 3.5 if available.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    Many interesting tails The thumbnail portraits of the inventors were sometimes more impressive than the inventions themselves. I enjoyed chipping away at this book for a couple of weeks.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Timber

    I really liked the idea of this book, but the author didn't did deeper than Wikipedia in his research and it is filled with factual errors as well as too many of the author's opinions written as if fact. I really liked the idea of this book, but the author didn't did deeper than Wikipedia in his research and it is filled with factual errors as well as too many of the author's opinions written as if fact.

  9. 4 out of 5

    B

    The United States of America is such a great country! The title captures perfectly how American ingenuity has changed the world. The book is great and inspiring.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    This is an excellent, well-written, and highly interesting book. If it wasn't for the rather crude illustrations, I would have given it 5 stars. This is an excellent, well-written, and highly interesting book. If it wasn't for the rather crude illustrations, I would have given it 5 stars.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Randall Harrison

    What a great idea for a book; definitely a good read! A quick, easy read given the design and layout of the subject matter. The book is a series of short (2-3 pp) vignettes highlighting technological innovations invented by American men and women, many of them immigrants. This was a great book for somebody like me who likes to get a lot of information in as small a package as possible. The stories are purposefully not detailed; this gives the reader a taste of many diverse technological subjects What a great idea for a book; definitely a good read! A quick, easy read given the design and layout of the subject matter. The book is a series of short (2-3 pp) vignettes highlighting technological innovations invented by American men and women, many of them immigrants. This was a great book for somebody like me who likes to get a lot of information in as small a package as possible. The stories are purposefully not detailed; this gives the reader a taste of many diverse technological subjects, from the washing machine to the electric guitar, in one volume. This nudges a reader like me, whose interest is piqued by these stories, to dive deeper into the individual inventions via additional research.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    "America the Ingenious" explores 76 important or interesting American inventions. From covered wagons (prairie schooner) to cars (Lincoln zephyr), planes (transcontinental plane), trains (NY subway, transcontinental railroad, etc.), ships (yankee clippers, container ship), and spaceships (Apollo 11). From canals (Erie Canal, Panama Canal) to tunnels (Hudson and East River tunnels). From the rotary printing press to transatlantic cable, microprocessor to 3D printing, sewing machines to athletic s "America the Ingenious" explores 76 important or interesting American inventions. From covered wagons (prairie schooner) to cars (Lincoln zephyr), planes (transcontinental plane), trains (NY subway, transcontinental railroad, etc.), ships (yankee clippers, container ship), and spaceships (Apollo 11). From canals (Erie Canal, Panama Canal) to tunnels (Hudson and East River tunnels). From the rotary printing press to transatlantic cable, microprocessor to 3D printing, sewing machines to athletic shoes, and more. Each invention had about 3 pages of text plus an illustration or two. The author talked about why the invention was built and the people and efforts involved. He provided interesting details about the challenges faced during the building of the project or by those using the product. He usually discussed how it worked only in general terms. Overall, I'd recommend this book. I received an ebook review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kristine

    America the Ingenious: 76 World-Changing Inventions and the Visionaries Who Made Them Happen by Kevin Baker is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late September. Amazing and enthusiastically motivating, this book is laid out like a technical manual (informative insets, pencil-sketch drawings; I half-expect it to be spiral-bound) and looks at each individual invention while also expanding how the field of that invention would advance over time.

  14. 4 out of 5

    David Webber

    A collection of very short chapters on various inventions - some great to read (Erie Canal, Yankee Clipper, Hudson and East River Tunnels, transatlantic cable, athletic shoe, train stations, Gatling Gun, pacemaker, etc), but a few seem a bit misplaced (cyborgs, liquid paper, space elevator).

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bernie

    An interesting review of American inventors. My daughter gave me this book for Christmas. Thanks Alison!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mark

  17. 5 out of 5

    Roger Rucker

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Lyle

  19. 4 out of 5

    Greg

  20. 4 out of 5

    Michael A. Simmons, Sr.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Henry

  22. 5 out of 5

    John Richards

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tom Praster

  24. 4 out of 5

    Erick Jones

  25. 5 out of 5

    Karen Ward

  26. 4 out of 5

    Karen Hermelink

    Collection of short (approx 3 pg) description of American inventions with their history and impact on not just the USA, but the world. Very interestingly written, informative and thought provoking. We are truly America, the Ingenious.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Michael E. Frazier

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  29. 5 out of 5

    Paul Corona

  30. 4 out of 5

    Karen L. Porter

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