Age of Invention: The Paradox of Progress

You’re reading my newsletter, Age of Invention, on the causes of the British Industrial Revolution and the history of innovation. It currently goes out to over 4,900 people. You can subscribe here: The ninth laird of Auchinleck, James Boswell achieved immortal fame for following around Dr Samuel Johnson, compiler of a famous dictionary of the English language. Boswell recorded Johnson’s every drop of wit, later publishing it in an unprecedentedly personal biography. But it was in Birmingham in 1776, while on an excursion away from his muse, that Boswell recorded one of the best lines in the history of technology. Upon being shown around Boulton and Watt’s steam engine factory at Soho, Matthew Boulton told him that “I sell here, sir, what all the world desires to have — Power.”

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