Perhaps no technological development in the century has more fundamentally transformed human life than the airplane and its support apparatus. The nature of flight, and the activities that it has engendered throughout the world, makes the development of aviation technology an important area of investigation. Why did aeronautical technology take the shape it did? Which individuals and organizations were involved in driving it? What factors influenced particular choices of technologies to be used? More importantly, how has innovation affected this technology? "Innovation and the Development of Flight, " a first strike at the "new aviation history," represents a significant transformation of the field by relating the subject to larger issues of society, politics, and culture, taking a more sophisticated view of the technology that few historians have previously attempted. This volume moves beyond a focus on the artifact to emphasize the broader role of the airplane and, more importantly, the entire technological system. This suggests that many unanswered questions are present in the development of modern aviation and that inquisitive historians seek to know the relationships of technological systems to the human mind. Some of the subjects discussed are early aeronautical innovation and government patronage; the evolution of relationships among airports, cities, and industry; the relationship of engine development to the entire aviation industry; the Department of Commerce's influence on light plane development; pressure in the Air Force for the development of jet engines; and lessons of the National Aerospace Plane Program. Aviation historians and historians of technology will find "Innovation and the Development of Flight" a valuable examination of aeronautical innovation providing foundations for continued explorations of this field.
Roger D. Launius is chief historian, National Aeronautics and Space Administration. He has written or edited more than twenty books.
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