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Imagination and a Pile of Junk: A Droll History of Inventors and Inventions

Trevor Norton

8 Reviews

Rated 0

Prose: non-fiction, Social & cultural history, Industrialisation & industrial history, Popular science, History of engineering & technology, Inventions & inventors

'Norton writes with wit and a fine eye for the poetry in the scientific world...funny and gripping.' The Guardian

'In his whistle-stop tour of inventions large and small, the scientist Trevor Norton shares the Gershwins' view that invention is fundamentally comic.' The Sunday Times

Trevor Norton, who has been compared to Gerard Durrell and Bill Bryson, weaves an entertaining history with a seductive mix of eureka moments, disasters and dirty tricks.

Although inventors were often scientists or engineers, many were not: Samuel Morse (Morse code) was a painter, Lazlow Biro (ballpoint) was a sculptor and hypnotist, and Logie Baird (TV) sold boot polish. The inventor of the automatic telephone switchboard was an undertaker who believed the operator was diverting his calls to rival morticians so he decided to make all telephone operators redundant.

Inventors are mavericks indifferent to conventional wisdom so critics were dismissive of even their best ideas: radio had 'no future,' electric light was 'an idiotic idea' and X-rays were 'a hoax.' Even so, the state of New Jersey moved to ban X-ray opera glasses. The head of the General Post Office rejected telephones as unneccesary as there were 'plenty of small boys to run messages.'

Inventomania is a magical place where eccentrics are always in season and their stories are usually unbelievable - but rest assured, nothing has been invented.

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Praise for Imagination and a Pile of Junk: A Droll History of Inventors and Inventions

  • 'In his whistle-stop tour of inventions large and small, the scientist Trevor Norton shares the Gershwins' view that invention is fundamentally comic... Some of the most amusing bits of Norton's book - whose short chapters encourage you to dip in at random rather than read sequentially - concern those inventions that didn't quite make the grade... Another source of comedy in Norton's history of invention is our changing sense of what matters.' - The Sunday Times

  • Norton's agile prose is burnished with faintly mocking humour, and he has the natural storyteller's eye for detail. - Daily Telegraph

  • This anecdote packed book reads rather like the draft of a rollicking after-dinner speech...rich entertainment - Mail on Sunday

  • Norton writes with wit and a fine eye for the poetry in the scientific world...funny and gripping. - The Guardian

  • In his whistle-stop tour of inventions large and small, the scientist Trevor Norton shares the Gershwins' view that invention is fundamentally comic... Some of the most amusing bits of Norton's book - whose short chapters encourage you to dip in at random rather than read sequentially - concern those inventions that didn't quite make the grade... Another source of comedy in Norton's history of invention is our changing sense of what matters. - The Sunday Times

  • In Norton's breezy telling of man's progress, it is not necessity that is the mother of invention, but other inventors. - Mail on Sunday

  • A new book tells the remarkable stories behind our everyday lives. - Daily Express

  • He tells these tales of super-human determination with a sharp twinkle in his eye and an unerring instinct for the absurd. - Daily Mail

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