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They Made America - From the Steam Engine to the Search Engine: Two Centuries of Innovators

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They Made America
From the Steam Engine to the Search Engine: Two Centuries of Innovators. By Harold Evans. (Back Bay Books: 2006. Pg. 692.) ISBN: 0316013854

Reviewed by Carmella Cruz - December 20, 2004

The author, Harold Evans takes you on a jaunt though American history that is enlightening and fascinating. Mr. Evans has a very pleasant lilting accent and it is obvious from his narrative that he admires the innovators who have made America the bastion of innovative thinking that it is. Mr. Evans makes it clear that an invention is just that, but the innovator takes the invention and makes it into something unique and workable.

Mr. Evans regales you with stories behind the famous and the not so famous innovators. The narrative starts with Robert Fulton and takes us though history to Pierre Omidyar, the man who started Ebay. Fulton did not invent the steamboat, Colt did not invent the revolver, but their names are inextricably linked to the inventions. Without their unique vision, these inventions would not have led to the uses that changed the landscape of America and ultimately to the way we live today.

The story of each invention is followed from its inception to the innovation that turned it into practical uses. Most interesting of all is the sometimes bizarre lives of the people behind the transformation. I particularly enjoyed these stories, especially the life of Isaac Singer. I won't give anything away, but his life is akin to some of the best fiction I've read.

If you are interested in history and the evolution of America this is the book for you. If you have no interest in history, you will after reading this book.

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