Neil Irwin’s romp through the history of American innovation from the mid-1800s onward provides a pretty interesting perspective on how we got here, leaving most historically informed readers underwhelmed at the latest developments when they’re compared to such undertakings as the building of the Brooklyn Bridge back in 1880s.
It’s all relative, as they say…
A hundred years from now they’ll look at current cancer therapy like we look at blood-letting today (not an original comparison, but one worth repeating) – innovation and achievement must be measured in the context of the period that they occurred.
It would have been interesting to go back another 50 years or so to look at life in early 1800s America – consider that, prior to the invention of the telegraph and railroads, nothing traveled faster than a horse. For example, Andrew Jackson’s war-hero status earned in the Battle of New Orleans actually came two weeks after the War of 1812 had officially ended.