Since ancient times humanity has used fire, extracted minerals from the bowels of the Earth, irrigated soil with water distributed with artificial canals, and forced its will on nature thanks to technological ingenuity. Techniques have given men an enormous power, enabling to lift great weights and win battles, but at the same time generate awe and fear through change and transformation. This book introduces the reader to the history of technology and the ever-shifting relationship between techniques and society, between ingenuity and political power: from the Venetian 1474 law, the first to acknowledge techniques status as ingenuity and establish inventors title to ownership, to the 17th century in which bankers and entrepreneurs used their capital to further mechanization and encouraged inventiveness with prizes and incentives, from the introduction of industrial patents to World War I, when inventors became national heroes. The final part of the book examines contemporary society, in which contradictions that have plagued techniques and inventions throughout history come to a head, as in the current controversy over the statute of patents.
Luisa Dolza teaches Hisotry of Technology at the Turin Polytechnic. In the year 2000 the Society of History of Technology awarded her the title of International Fellow.
Portuguese rights sold to Teorema.