Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In Scientists Behind the Inventors, after an introductory chapter defining terms and presenting an overview of the history of science and technology in Europe and the United States from 1750 to 1950, Roger Burlingame analyzes the life and work of eight scientists. He examines six of them individually in a short, separate, and independent chapter, and Pierre and Marie Curie are discussed together. With the exception of Marie Curie, all the scientists are males, and the group consists of four Europeans, two Americans, and two European immigrants to the United States. All the subjects were physicists or chemists, and with the exception of Louis Pasteur, none was interested in the biological sciences. A few of the scientists, notably Benjamin Silliman and Joseph Henry, knew one another, but Burlingame is uninterested in such interactions. Only rarely does the author draw explicit parallels between the experiences of different scientists, instead allowing the cumulative evidence to speak for itself.

The common thread that binds these eight scientists together is that their scientific discoveries were the foundation for some of the most important inventions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The steam engine, vulcanized rubber, electromagnetic motors, electric transformers, medical technology, long-distance telephone service, and atomic energy were some of the applications or inventions dependent upon the scientific principles articulated by...

(The entire section is 465 words.)