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Download The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry, and Invention Audiobook

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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (199 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: William Rosen Narrator: Michael Prichard Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: June 2010 ISBN: 9781400187096
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If all measures of human advancement in the last hundred centuries were plotted on a graph, they would show an almost perfectly flat line-until the eighteenth century, when the Industrial Revolution would cause the line to shoot straight up, beginning an almost uninterrupted march of progress. In The Most Powerful Idea in the World, William Rosen tells the story of the men responsible for the Industrial Revolution and the machine that drove it-the steam engine. In the process he tackles the question that has obsessed historians ever since: What made eighteenth-century Britain such fertile soil for inventors? Rosen's answer focuses on a simple notion that had become enshrined in British law the century before: that people had the right to own and profit from their ideas. The result was a period of frantic innovation revolving particularly around the promise of steam power. Rosen traces the steam engine's history from its early days as a clumsy but sturdy machine, to its coming-of-age driving the wheels of mills and factories, to its maturity as a transporter for people and freight by rail and by sea. Along the way we enter the minds of such inventors as Thomas Newcomen and James Watt; scientists, including Robert Boyle and Joseph Black; and philosophers John Locke and Adam Smith-all of whose insights, tenacity, and ideas transformed first a nation and then the world. Rosen is a masterly storyteller with a keen eye for the "aha!" moments of invention and a gift for clear and entertaining explanations of science. The Most Powerful Idea in the World will appeal to anyone who is fascinated with history, science, and the hows and whys of innovation itself. Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • “The book has a crackling energy to it, often as riveting as it is educational.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • The book has a crackling energy to it, often as riveting as it is educational. Los Angeles Times
  • “Expect to take your time with Rosen’s lengthy history of steam power—which proves to be more engaging than you might expect…For history buffs and the technically minded, this title will be a favorite. But it is aimed at, and deserves, a wider audience.”

    AudioFile

  • “The Industrial Revolution inspires more academic theories than absorbing narratives. Rosen, however, crafts one from subplots that connect with primitive industrialism’s premier symbol: the steam engine. Ardent about historical technology, Rosen modulates his mechanical zeal”

    Booklist

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gary Misch | 1/29/2014

    " Great piece of industrial history. It ties British innovation together well with the strength of their patent system to make a case for why England prospered more than other nations, even though many critical innovations were created outside of England. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mathias Rudolph | 1/27/2014

    " Finally done. Was okay, would have been nicer with some more illustrations of the variouse inventions. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 David Jedeikin | 1/15/2014

    " Fascinating story of how steam and coal transformed the world. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Margaret Sankey | 1/12/2014

    " Popular technology history of steam power, with ably described technological explanations of the fine differences between improvements, with a paean to the infrastructure of Great Britain (patent law, the Fire Engine Act of 1775, cotton, canals, the Bank, John Company and over-achieving Scots) that made it possible. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jeremy | 1/3/2014

    " Great review of history steam, patents and rewarding invention and all its related parts. It really sold me on the idea, that it takes humanity 10 years before an invention can be harness by industry. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Eugene | 12/20/2013

    " The idea is just the beginning. Rosen explains what else is needed to turn an idea into a great invention. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 John Wagner | 12/8/2013

    " Learned a lot. Not great writing. History doesn't extend into modern times. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Bruce | 11/10/2013

    " It seemed to be more a history of invention and patent law, as developed in the UK and the US, than of technical innovation. I would have liked more technical details of steam power development. His chemical descriptions were incorrect, a fatal flaw. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mike | 10/29/2013

    " I finished this book so long ago that I really can't remember much about it. The story got a little technical at times and I struggled to say with it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ian | 10/24/2013

    " A great, and detailed, look at the age of invention, and why it occurred in the English-speaking world, and particularly, England. At the end of the day, it is an exploration of the rise of intellectual property. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Randy | 9/7/2013

    " Could have been written in 25 pages. It bogged down, and lost me in the vaguely relative, boring details of the people involved, instead of focusing on the actual Steam Engine. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Ken | 6/17/2013

    " I was a little disappointed by this book. The scientific achievements were not clearly explained; this book made me appreciate the good technical writing of others (not Rosen). In addition, I felt the whole book was a bit jumbled. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lance | 10/13/2012

    " An excellent liberal arts look at how ideas, specifically the steam engine, is interwoven into the fabric of law, politics, economics and other aspects of life. A definite read for anyone who likes philosophy, history and looking at things through many lenses. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lance Wiggs | 9/5/2012

    " Huge amount of learnings for how innovation happens today. It's all about sharing. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jc | 9/4/2012

    " Sometimes I'm amazed at how long it took for mankind to harness the power of steam. This book does a great job in revealing the near misses and guiding the reader through the trials and successes on the way to the industrial revolution. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Heather | 6/27/2012

    " This sounded like an interesting book, but I just couldn't get past the dry, technical language. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dahlia | 4/7/2012

    " Very interesting! This book is actually more about innovation and especially on how important patent law is. Very thought provoking, a must read for aspiring entrepreneurs. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michael Pryor | 1/29/2012

    " I love a wide-ranging intellect. William Rosen roams around history, geography and politics in a fascinating take on the industrial revolution. While not light on technical details of steam engines, it's absorbing in its exploration of the nature of invention and the impact of patent laws. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Heather | 4/26/2011

    " This sounded like an interesting book, but I just couldn't get past the dry, technical language. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mike | 2/23/2011

    " I finished this book so long ago that I really can't remember much about it. The story got a little technical at times and I struggled to say with it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mathias | 11/22/2010

    " Finally done. Was okay, would have been nicer with some more illustrations of the variouse inventions. "

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About the Author

William Rosen, a former editor and publisher at Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, and the Free Press, is the author of Justinian’s Flea and The Most Powerful Idea in the World. He lives in New Jersey.

About the Narrator

Michael Prichard is a Los Angeles-based actor who has played several thousand characters during his career, over one hundred of them in theater and film. He is primarily heard as an audiobook narrator, having recorded well over five hundred full-length books. His numerous awards and accolades include an Audie Award for Tears in the Darkness by Michael Norman and Elizabeth M. Norman and six AudioFile Earphones Awards. He was named a Top Ten Golden Voice by SmartMoney magazine. He holds an MFA in theater from the University of Southern California.