Based on the book California: A History by Kevin Starr, how did the alliance of science, technology, and state and local governments in California create a powerful economy?  

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In California: A History, historian Kevin Starr states that the technology that helped fuel the Gold Rush also helped establish the pattern of development for the state, leading to a powerful economy. He writes, "the Gold Rush established, for better of worse, the founding patterns, the DNA code, of American culture" (page 80). As the Gold Rush developed, it demanded more and more complex levels of organization. The Gold Rush started with one man with a pan and went on to witness the development of complex organizations involved in hydraulic mining. In addition, technology related to mining led to the founding of an academy of science and a state geological survey (page xiii) in the state. The state also established three cutting-edge astronomical laboratories, and these research institutions would help fuel future technology in the state. 

The technology that the mining industry developed to move water through irrigation was then co-opted by city governments to help build their infrastructure (page 171). As Starr writes, "this same technology would enlarge and stabilize the metropolitan infrastructure of San Francisco and Los Angeles" (page 171). The cities established the Board of Public Works (in San Francisco in 1898) and the Board of Water Commissioners (in Los Angeles in 1903) to bring water to people in their cities. The cities built dams and aqueducts to transport water, and this infrastructure allowed them to expand. Mining led to infrastructure that helped support a growing population and helped expand cities.

Later, California became a center of aviation. As Starr writes, the state "intended to insert aviation into the very DNA code of the state" (page 254). Shortly after the Wright Brothers' first flight, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce held an air show (in 1910). Southern California went on to become the nation's leader in passenger flight, in part because of capital provided by movie director Cecil B. DeMille and others, and partly because of new technology coming out of Caltech (a research university). Later, the state became a center of the computer industry. 

California also became a world center of trade, and the port of Los Angeles at Long Beach became the busiest port in the world. This was in part because California's state government promoted trade through international offices (page xiii). The state co-opted the technology that first came out of the mining industry and became a promoter of trade and technology, fueling the growth of the California economy. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial