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Power StrugglesScientific Authority and the Creation of Practical Electricity Before Edison$
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Michael Brian Schiffer

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780262195829

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262195829.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM MIT PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.mitpress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright The MIT Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MITSO for personal use.date: 26 October 2021

Studying Technological Change

Studying Technological Change

(p.1) 1 Studying Technological Change
Power Struggles

Michael Brian Schiffer

The MIT Press

This chapter illustrates how technological change is influenced by practical application needs and presents the example of Edison’s effort in setting up an electrical lighting system in a stretch of offices in the Pearl Street District of lower Manhattan. Any scientific invention needs to be useful in practice or in application for it to be accepted by society. Additionally, the performance characteristics of a new technology such as installation cost, operating cost, efficiency, and durability are crucial for its social acceptance. The chapter also illustrates the fact that, at times, the effects of a specific technological invention may become the causative factor of another invention. The author takes up the example of primitive battery-operated lighting, which gave rise to the invention of better street lighting.

Keywords:   technological change, Edison, electrical lighting system, Pearl Street District, Manhattan, performance characteristics, social acceptance

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