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Digital List Price: CDN$ 58.95
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Great Inventions that Changed the World by [Wei, James]
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Length: 363 pages

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Discover the inventions that have made our world what it is today A great invention opens the door to a new era in human history. The stone axe, for example, invented some 2 million years ago in East Africa, enabled us to enter the human path of endless improvements through inventions. The taming of fire enabled us to cook food as well as leave the warmth of Africa and move to the frigid lands of the North. From the stone axe to the computer and the Internet, this book provides a fascinating tour of the most important inventions and inventors throughout history. You'll discover the landmark achievements and the men and women that made the world what it is today. Great Inventions That Changed the World is written by Professor James Wei, a renowned educator and engineer who holds several patents for his own inventions. Following an introductory chapter examining the role of inventors and inventions in fueling innovation and global advancement, the book is organized to show how inventions are spurred by human needs and desires, including: Work Food, clothing, and housing Health and reproduction Security As you progress through the book, you'll not only learn about inventions and inventors, but also the impact they have had on our lives and the society and environment in which we live today. Inventions solve problems, but as this book so expertly demonstrates, they can also directly or indirectly create new problems as well, from pollution to global warming to bioterrorism. By enabling us to understand the impact of inventions throughout history, this book can help guide the next generation of citizens, decision makers, and inventors.


“I highly recommend the very accessible and thought provoking book Great Inventions that Changed the World by James Wei, Ph.D., to any business leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, history and technology enthusiasts, engineers, and students of history, technology, and engineering disciplines seeking a clear and engaging guide to the triumphs and challenges of the greatest inventions of all time. This book will also introduce the readers to some of the most creative innovators and problem solvers through the ages in a logical and readily understood format.”  (Money Talks, 1 December 2012)

“I highly recommend the very accessible and thought provoking book Great Inventions that Changed the World by James Wei, Ph.D., to any business leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, history and technology enthusiasts, engineers, and students of history, technology, and engineering disciplines seeking a clear and engaging guide to the triumphs and challenges of the greatest inventions of all time. This book will also introduce the readers to some of the most creative innovators and problem solvers through the ages in a logical and readily understood format.”  (Blog Business World, 1 December 2012)

“He has written a remarkable and wide ranging work that spans human development from the stone age to the computer age . . . Of course as a chemist, I might wish that our science and industry had featured more prominently in Great inventions, but this is a minor quibble of what is undoubtedly a major work that is nothing less than superb.”  (Chemistry World, 14 November 2012)

“This isn’t just a book of inventions but also the history of how it changed the world so you also have this incredible history of the world here as well. If you’re creating a reality for any genre, then this is essential reading because you’ll realise a lot of things weren’t just there but was built upon. If you just want to be informed, then you will come away from this book with a formidable amount of knowledge. This is a book worthy of everyone’s attention.”  (, 1 September 2012)

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3295 KB
  • Print Length: 363 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-AIChE; 1 edition (July 2 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008HHV37C
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9f65e750) out of 5 stars 16 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa05c7330) out of 5 stars A Great Book for Students in Liberal Arts and Engineering Sept. 21 2012
By HSChung - Published on
Format: Hardcover
What an interesting and delightful book! The book, written by one of the elder statesmen of science, had served as the main text for a freshman course at Princeton University; it highlights the technologies and inventions produced in the evolution of human civilization and often provides a concise description of the principles underlying these endeavors. The inventions encompass such disparate areas as music, painting, printing, vehicles for transportation, machines for making clothing and power generation, materials, equipment and medicine used in healthcare, and many of the developments in communication and the technolgies supporting the current Information Age. The descriptions of the inventions were usually done in the historical, cultural, social and technological context prevailing at the time. Biographical sketches of the inventors were given which added immensely to the interest in the book. The book could be very useful to both the engineering and the Liberal Arts students; it contains a plethora of information to provide an engrossing exposure to "humanitize" the former,"technologize" the latter and, to "round out" the education of all readers. I highly recommend this book to them.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa05c7384) out of 5 stars A bit too densely written Feb. 19 2013
By DragonWing - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I had always thought that people who invented things were able to do so in an environment of political and religious freedom, but Wei posits that most early inventions (early, early inventions, from the Cavemen onward) came about because of the climate in which people lived. This made sense.

I found the way the book ws laid out to be interesting, as were the thumbnail sketches of the inventions in each of the categories he covered - Inventions for work, domestic life, health and reproduction, security, transportation, information, and finally, the good life (I was reminded of Douglas Adams comment on that subject in his Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why and Where phases. For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question "How can we eat?" the second by the question "Why do we eat?" and the third by the question "Where shall we have lunch?").

I enjoyed the book very much, for all that it seems intended as a textbook for an engineering class. (That doesn't mean that the text isn't accessible to the layperson, just that it is a text book, not a popular study.)

It is profusely illustrated, and lots of information is covered that a casual reader will appreciate knowing.

So pick it up.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa05c7d68) out of 5 stars Authoritative Guide to Inventions that Shaped Human History Jan. 17 2013
By Michael P. Lefand - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
The scope of "Great Inventions that Changed the World" by James Wei is a broad one. The book is divided into chapters that deal with aspects of human activity, such as inventions for work, health, transportation and communication. The decision to present the material in this fashion enables readers to navigate their way through the book easily when trying to focus on specific important inventions for different subjects or areas of interest.

Written in a readily accessible style "Great Inventions" conveys enough information to understand the concept and importance of each invention. Many of the descriptions are accompanied by useful explanatory diagrams, charts, and formulas where appropriate. There are also short backgrounds and tidbits about various inventors as well.

"Great Inventions" is designed to meet particular needs of school and university students, written as an outcome for a Princeton University freshman course. However, it will also prove invaluable to the casual reader seeking a better understanding of the numerous inventions we encounter and make use of in our daily lives. This book demonstrates how technology through invention has served society as it profits from bettering our lives.

The end of each chapter contains extensive references. I think it is an excellent reference for the bookshelf for anyone interested in technology as well as those in science, engineering and educational fields. I highly recommend it and think it is a 5 star addition to my personal library.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa05c7b34) out of 5 stars High-tech research centers share intreprenurial people, major metropolitan area with good 'quality of life'- Nov. 26 2012
By Didaskalex - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
"The most famous incubator of new inventions is silicon Vlley..., which is home to Stanford University, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, google, and Intel. High-tech research centers share...:talented pools of scientists and engineers, availability of venture capital and intreprenurial people, major metropolitan area with good 'quality of life'- climate, scenary, recreation,..." --James Wei

In "Great Inventions That Changed The World," J. Wei, a prominent Scientist, and former AIChI president examines not only how and why life transforming inventions came to be of dominant influence, becoming an indispensable part of human progress. These did not only shape the world but consequently enhanced progress up to the industrial revolution and the recent computer evolution, on which we depend to fly unmanned planes, drive MRI scanners or even run our dishwashers.

While the book will not over glorifying inventions and inventors, Wei places inventions in perspective, examining how they boosted progress of all human venues, elevating peoples aspiration in good living which followed a prosperous global economy, that allowed hi-tech countries to outsource manufacturing work to third world countries. I was enlightened, particularly, by his introduction, where he postulated the environment, tradition and leadership that enhanced creativity into development and innovation.

It does not seem that the applied scientist share with Kuhn his view of scientific revolution as the way of progressive transformation. His idea that changing the world by inventions, leading to harvesting technology, by transforming work concepts, leading to gradual transformation of lives, which was catalyzed by pioneer discoverers on every frontier was supported by many statistical analyses, of the last ten millennia. Transforming society and environment, is Wei Opus magnum, and a proof of an integrated analytical theory.

The authors evaluation of inventions is tied to the impact on work and production, which ultimately translates into quality of life. His 'Tools and methods' start with the stone axe, to machines, and "Energy and Power', and their performance depending on materials. On his compelling narrative he introduce us to famous inventors from Archimedes, James Watt to Edison, Tesla and Haber, the Nobel Laureate who created chemical warfare! But I will recommend you explore with Dr. Wei the following chapters concluded by 'Good Life'.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1f66120) out of 5 stars Through the Eyes of a Master Scientist and Teacher Oct. 25 2012
By awatom - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a superb book for anyone interested in history, science, or technology. While there are many publications on these topics, this book really stands out in three aspects:

Breadth - It is loaded with fascinating histories and personalities. The coverage is broader any other similar title I am aware of. Aided by the author's succinct writing style, the book packs more information per page than many science textbooks, yet it is a breeze to read. Want to know how the invention of stirrup led to the rise of feudalism in medieval Europe? Or John von Neumann, the preeminent mathematician and founding father of computer science, had a degree in chemical engineering? Read on. There are hundreds more such nuggets.

Depth - As readers of popular science and technology books would know, most such titles tend to be very superficial on technical details, often at the behest of the publisher in order to maximize readership. It is therefore a genuine delight to see this book's many simple yet illustrative calculations (many in special-topic boxes), ranging from the efficiency of Carnot cycle to the thickness of eye glasses. Using no more than middle school math, these examples truly drive home the meaning behind the technical ideas.

Insights - More than just a comprehensive recount of the history of technology, the books is sprinkled with examples of how scientists and engineers use simple numbers to arrive at surprising insights of nature. The author shows you how to price a life insurance policy, as well as the weight a Canada goose needs to put on before embarking on its seasonal migration. The readers get a rare and precious glimpse of how an accomplished scientist thinks about things!

In reading this book, I learned while I was entertained. It was a wonderful ride.