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4.28 of 5 stars 4.28  ·  rating details  ·  1,153 ratings  ·  64 reviews
Connections is a brilliant examination of the ideas, inventions, and coincidences that have culminated in the major technological achievements of today. The best-selling companion volume to the "unusually intelligent television series" (Christian Science Monitor) produced by the BBC and broadcast by PBS in autumn 1979, it was conceived in the tradition of the highly popula ...more
Audio, Abridged, 3 pages
Published June 15th 1990 by Macmillan Audio (first published 1978)
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Dec 04, 2013 Trevor rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Trevor by: Ginnie Jones
The world seems to be infinitely complicated and quite frankly totally beyond the comprehension of any of us. As science progresses one would need to live a dozen lifetimes and would still not be able to understand all of the processes and theories that are used daily to create the world we inhabit.

You might think it is hard to program your DVD Recorder (I almost said VCR, but who has one of those nowadays?) but what if you had to build a television set from scratch? What if you had to go back
Connections was written as a companion series to a documentary series of the same name. I've heard great things about the show, and since I really enjoyed the book, I'll track it down eventually. Burke's basic arguments here is that history is a continuum, not a series of isolated events. And so the atomic bomb owes its existence, in part, to that marvel of military engineering, the stirrup. It is indeed fascinating to trace the development of things that only seem unrelated and turn out to be o ...more
This is the only "history" book I am aware of that follows lines of thought through history, rather than an individual person or invention.

This is the proverbial butterfly fluttering its wings in the 12th century, leading to cell phone technology today.

The book can be a bit disconcerting to read, since you can read it in any order you like. This is a unique experience in my book-reading life, and the first time I read this book I read it front to back.

Later I went back and followed particular th
This book is the "companion" to a BBC TV series first broadcast in the '70s or early '80s. I found it interesting enough but intellectually weak. It purports to trace the history of development of various "modern" inventions, such as the jet engine, the computer and television, starting with the invention of agriculture. Where we arrive at the first problem; farming allowed the first division of labour into different, specialised occupations, which in turn, allowed the development of technology. ...more
Michael Larsen
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Benjamin Thomas
I first became a fan of James Burke back in the 70's when I was in high school and was exposed to a few of his "Connections" documentaries on PBS. But then I promptly forgot all about him until last year when I was paging through my Netflix recommendations and realized the entire series was available. My wife and I watched them all and I was so intrigued that I went ahead and bought this book for my library.

I've long been fascinated with history in general, and inventions in particular so I supp
Ross Blocher
I wish history textbooks were more like this! James Burke introduces Connections with the story of the 1965 Northeast Blackout. He pauses to consider how reliant we have become on technology and how little of it we understand before launching into a history of invention, from the plow to the modern day (well, 1978). If we expect to truly appreciate the convenience of our inventions, he makes a strong case that we should have some idea of how those inventions work and the physical processes that ...more
James Burke was originally a news reader for the BBC who went on to write a series of very interesting books/TV programmes (heck he is British). I both read and watched the "Connections" and "Connections II" (and there is a third one whose title escapes me) books and shows many years ago.

They are older so the CGI and FX are not what you could see today, but the information and linkages in the material is really very good. Not fiction, but facts and presented in rather unique ways.

I strongly reco
First, I must recommend any television program associated with James Burke, especially Connections 2, which is the reason I checked this book of my library in the first place.

This book, inspired by the original 1970s Connection program, really is like reading a complete history of everything, though its aim is little more narrowed down: how change happens. The kind of changes he details are incredible--political, cultural, technological, scientific. And what is really eye-opening is how all thes
Tim Williams
Based on the truly genius series shown on PBS in the US. I grew up with this and loved it from the initial showing. I still go back and watch it probably once a year as an adult. The book aligns with the first series and is just as great. In regards to the series, the second 'season' was not nearly as good. The third was better but still not quite as good as the first.

If you liked the TV series, the book is more of the same - brilliant.
If you are like me and want to know how something was invented, why it was invented, who invented it, where it came from etc etc etc this is the book for you. It takes you from the very beginning through current technology (I think the 1987's). there is also a PBS series on this which someday I am hoping to watch. Fascinating.
Great links from ancient history to ?odern times. Filled with litte kwon facts. The conections made by the author are his own
But intriging none the less. Certain facts certainly speak for themselves.
US News and World report interviewed some Business School professors on some of the greatest business books. A Dartmouth Professor recommended this book. The premise of the book is that innovations of the past built to innovations today. The author does not take into account dumb luck as much as a market need for innovation. This was a PBS series in the late 1970's. It was written in 1978 and I am told the book is out of print. It is a slow read, with so much detail and pictures. The book Talks ...more
Have you ever considered how one discovery often leads to another? The computer you're reading this review on could not have come about if someone had not discovered how electricity works, another developed the theory, and someone else then found practical ways of using it.

James Burke has given a lot of thought to such interrelations -- many times over, and with a lot more inventiveness than most people. Connections explores how, for instance, a water-wheel grain mill led to punch-card computers
Michael Hughes
Connections is the companion volume to the BBC television series “Connections” produced in the Autumn of 1979. I originaly read connections after watching the BBC series on my local PBS station.

Connections explores an “Alternative View of Change” (the subtitle of the BBC series). Burke thesis us that technology advancement is the result of a web of connections between separate events. Each event is the result of one person or group acting as the result of separate motivations.

Each chapter begi
Connections is an incredibly interesting look at the process of scientific discovery through journeys that connect two seemingly disparate pieces of technology. By using these journeys to demonstrate how accident, epiphany, and circumstances can lead to inventions that change the course of history, James Burke is stating that history does in fact have something to say about the future. He claims that patterns of discovery are tied to qualities of humanity, so that we can look at the circumstance ...more
Dan Mozgai
James Burke is to invention as Carl Sagan is to outer space. Connections tells the remarkable history of dozens of inventions by demonstrating how one discovery, invention or innovation led to another, often seemingly unrelated, innovation. There is also a TV series by the same name that covers the same information as this book, which is worth watching as well.
I have been a fan of James Burke ever since I saw one of his documentaries in a college class some 15 years ago. Mr. Burke has such a fascinating way of detailing history and science. I am sure if history classes were taught like a Burke documentary it would become a very popular subject. This book is pretty much the same story as the documentary of the same name. I love how someone can be innovating something at on place and someone else can be discovering something by accident and then somehow ...more
Sean Kavanagh
before popular science was really a thing, James Burke did this TV series and book - and I loved it as kid - still have my hardback. Good, but perhaps of its era
Jul 24, 2013 Yougo rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Yougo by: Jeremy Owen
This was perhaps the most fascinating book I've read all year. The author takes you through a most interesting and compelling look at innovation throughout the last thousand years. The author shows how it is often surprising where one innovation will lead, in many cases to a very unrelated discovery or invention. To see the connections between different discoveries and the how they lead to things we have in this modern world and to see how seemingly simple discoveries can radically change the ve ...more
Easy to read look at how discoveries and accidents have an incredible impact on progress. The adjacent possible is an incredibly powerful force for progress.
I loved the television series, and thought this would be a chance to get a little more back story and to slowly and meticulously follow the chain of events. That was not to be. The book reads almost exactly like a word for word transcript of the series, except without the music and visual cues that are essential for pulling everything together. Stick with the show; the book really isn't the best medium for these ideas.
DVD Connections 1. Volumes 1-2, The trigger effect. Death in the morning

DVD Connections 1. Volumes 3-4, Distant voices. Faith in numbers / written by James Burke ; produced in association with Time Life Films

Normans used stirrups at Battle of Hastings led to England being English also the spiraling upward of warfare. Who started using horses in the first place?

get this again

I also have the book.
Heather Marks
So great! I can't imagine the kind of research that would go into writing a book like this. He seems to know everything about everything that has made civilization go. From the plough to the atomic bomb, series of connections and discovery that is fascinating. He based his TV miniseries "Connections" on the chapters of this book, so if you are more visual, that is just as good!
Kyle Wild
Sep 20, 2008 Kyle Wild rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people into the history of science and innovation
Just an incredible way to communicate history...

Burke works through generations of humans, working ever forward through time along a chain of connected inventions and coincidences, until he reaches a modern super-invention. Each of the eight arguments is compelling, surprising, well-supported, and masterfully narrated.

TV People: Watch the entire BBC series!!
Julie H.
This is an admittedly catch-as-catch-can approach to the intersection of circumstances associated with some of the major technological and industrial innovations of western Civilization. Whether you actually agree with Burke's thesis or not (which I don't), it's still interesting reading sure to provide you with considerable grist for your own further research.
A seemingly effortless flow of historical events threaded together by a good story teller. Burke helps us see the small struggles of inventors and problem solvers, and how they build on one another's experience to advance the "big ideas" of science and technology. Parts of the book are nicely surprising, but others feel contrived.
Always quite fascinating to learn the progression of inventions/discoveries that have lead to modern day resources. I had heard of several "Connections" in the past, but perhaps those were revealed in the TV series, for they weren't addressed in the book. Some of the chapters were long, but it seemed to move rather quickly.
Clare K. R.
I didn't actually finish this book. I probably would have, except that the library's copy stinks of cigarette smoke, I can't get it out, and it's making me sick. I'm putting it on my wish list and watching the TV show on YouTube. According to the reviews the TV show is more interesting anyway.
Decent summary and companion piece to the television series. This goes through a couple of the histories from the show, and is well narrated by Burke. I would say that if you've recently watched the show, the audiobook is probably skippable, but at only 3 hours it's still an enjoyable listen.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

James Burke (born 22 December 1936) is a Northern Irish science historian, author and television producer best known for his documentary television series called Connections, focusing on the history of science and technology leavened with a sense of humour.

More about James Burke...
The Day the Universe Changed: How Galileo's Telescope Changed the Truth The Pinball Effect: How Renaissance Water Gardens Made The Carburetor Possible - and Other Journeys Through Knowledge The Knowledge Web: From Electronic Agents to Stonehenge and Back -- And Other Journeys Through Knowledge Circles: Fifty Round Trips Through History Technology Science Culture The Axemaker's Gift

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“Why should we look to the past in order to prepare for the future? Because there is nowhere else to look.” 13 likes
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