Printing, gunpowder, clockwork and powered textile machines were invented in China a thousand years ago, and it is often assumed that this was a one-way influence on European technology. In the 20th century, by contrast, it is assumed that most inventions originate in the West and are then "transferred" to other nations. In this book, Arnold Pacey ...
Printing, gunpowder, clockwork and powered textile machines were invented in China a thousand years ago, and it is often assumed that this was a one-way influence on European technology. In the 20th century, by contrast, it is assumed that most inventions originate in the West and are then "transferred" to other nations. In this book, Arnold Pacey argues that the spread of technology is not part of a monologue directed from one country to another; techniques are rarely simply transferred without some modification. Gunpowder, for instance, and basic guns were invented in China, but provoked the invention of the far more powerful and deadly cannon in Europe. Equally, failure to appreciate that transfer of technology should not mean "imposition" on to Third World countries can lead to policy failure; transformations occur today as western inventions - such as the transistor - are redeveloped in Asian industries. Arnold Pacey portrays the process by which inventions are borrowed from one culture, modified to suit another and then lead to further invention, as a complex dialectic. Nuclear power and microelectronics are almost wholly the product of western science, but modern technology is by no means the unaided creation of the West. In this book it becomes clear that the ways in which these technologies, and the environmental skills that follow from them, are used and developed as part of a continuing dialogue with non-western cultures.
Publishers Weekly, 1990-03-16 Pacey, a physicist turned historian, traces the myriad crucial ways by which Western technology benefited from a continuous dialogue wth Chinese, Indian and Islamic civiizations. These cultures' innovations in hydraulic engineering, the smelting of iron, the invention of guns and gunpowder, in shipbuilding, printing and the weaving of textiles all strongly influenced Western technological development. In A.D. 1100 China was the most technologically advanced region in the world. What eventually gave the West a decisive edge, notes Pacey, was the development of disciplined factory production and the organization of knowledge according to general scientific principles. The author argues that Western science today often arrogantly ignores the constraints of local conditions in the Third World, which causes great harm: e.g., preventing African herdsmen from burning grasslands, a means of controlling the sleeping sickness-carrying tsetse flies that breed there. The book is packed with information, and readers interested in technology will want to add it to their bookshelves. (May)
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