Great Lives from History: Inventors & Inventions Review

“Intended for high school students, undergraduates, and general readers, Inventors & Inventions provides essays of 2,000-2,500 words highlighting the lives of inventors and the stories behind their inventions. There are 409 signed essays from 144 contributors arranged alphabetically by inventor. Inventors go back to the ancient world up through the present… Part of the Great Lives from History series, Salem Press offers free online access to the electronic version when a print copy is purchased.”

“Salem Press provides an inventor resource for a new generation with its four-volume biographical encyclopedia Great Lives from History: Inventors and Inventions. An emphasis on modern incarnations of technological advances underpin 409 essays covering the varied contributions of 413 ancient, medieval and modern inventors. According to the editor, ‘the term ‘invention’ was defined to include not only mechanical and other physical devices but also processes (e.g. the Bessemer process for making steel), software (such as Grace Hopper's invention of COBOL) and systems such as those applied to business management.’

The encyclopedia stresses accessibility. Entries include a key to pronunciation of difficult names. There are a number of entry points for each article. Each of the four volumes includes a complete list of contents and an index organized by invention. Other access points include the inventors contained in all volumes sorted chronologically, with geographical and subject indexing as well. This sort of comprehensive indexing increases the usability of the set. An appendix to Volume 4 includes a history of U.S. patent law, which affects many of the technical accomplishments of modern history. The current requirement for a working model, for example, might not have earned Alexander Graham Bell the patent for the telephone.

The encyclopedia would be invaluable for classroom teachers identifying "like" subjects for research projects and round-robin or jigsaw work. Salem Press seems to recognize the realities of the classroom and school library ecologies and includes access to an "online subscription" with local administration for networked access to a digital version of the same text. Since online access is bundled with purchase of print resources, their usefulness is expanded beyond a single reader. Recommended for secondary school and public libraries.”

“This set includes many useful tools for researchers and would be suitable for the student as well as for the layperson. It’s worth noting that, while some of the titles in the Great Lives series are revisions and expansions of previous publications, all the entries here are new. Recommended for public and high school libraries...”