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4.25  ·  Rating details ·  2,259 ratings  ·  118 reviews
In this bestselling book, James Burke examines the ideas, inventions, and coincidences that have culminated in the major technological advances of today. He untangles the pattern of interconnecting events, the accidents of time, circumstance, and place that gave rise to major inventions of the world. Says Burke, "My purpose is to acquaint the reader with some of the forces ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published September 1st 1995 by Little Brown and Company (first published 1978)
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Average rating 4.25  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,259 ratings  ·  118 reviews

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Nov 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Apr 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a very vast overview of the history of science and technology. At the core, though, is the author's philosophy that scientific progress is made not in giant quantum leaps, but by a fine network of interconnected incremental breakthroughs that lead to each other in unexpected ways. What's interesting is that this network spans not only the field of science, but finance, sociology, the arts, and warfare.

He starts with the great blackout of 1965. From there, he discusses the centrality
Mar 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, history
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
May 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
A fascinating and different way of looking at history, tracing how each new advance in technology shaped society, in turn leading to the next advance. For example, how the advent of the stirrup on the battlefield led eventually to the atomic bomb.

My only complaint with this is that he sometimes went too fast and did not do a deep-enough dive into topics, but overall a good read and recommended if you are interested in science and history.

Now I have to go watch the TV series.
Benjamin Thomas
Apr 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, non-fiction
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
Aug 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 07, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve been burned twice by reading “How We Got to Now” (by Steven Johnson). First, I just didn’t like that book. Second, it led me to this book (by way of some goodreads reviews) which was even worse.

The book is way too sweeping in its historical retellings and the scientific descriptions are densely mind- numbing. Here’s an example which is representative of much of the book:

“On this new loom the threads were stretched horizontally on a frame. Two horizontal boards above the frame each supported
Many years ago, I watched and was completely fascinated by a PBS series - Connections (and later Connections 2 and Connections 3). The Connections set was going to be among the first purchases once I started buying DVD's for personal use although it was eventually years before I ever found a set for sale and it was restricted to educational institutions and quite pricey.

So when I saw the book, it was like a flashback and I knew I had to get a copy. And it is just as good as I remember. This 2007
Harsh Thaker
Jun 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books on the history of technology where it shows how little improvements and inventions lead to paradigm shift in technology, way of life and overall progress of mankind. One of the best write ups on evolution of chemical industry in Germany
Michael Larsen
Dec 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Sep 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
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.
Sep 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1970s, history, dewey500s
Quite appreciated this historical science series, print and tv, and am enjoying Steven Johnson use of the same format with his How We Got to Now.
Definitely re-read material.
"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 popular Civilization and The Ascent of Man.

"Connections masterfully combines popular science and detective work to retrace the ste
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Usually, you have to read good fiction to have a book convey so subtly its message using information that is itself disposable. This book will alter the way you look at the world by presenting you many stories you won’t remember in a year.

I first read this book when I was a sophomore in high school, and it was the first time I was aware a book was changing my world view as I read it. Everything to that point had presented technological development with hindsight, as though it was an intentional
Simon Dobson
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The original (I think) work of trying to weave the threads of technological change through history – and possibly still the best. In terms of the broad sweep of history and the wedding of social and scientific factors, it's hard to beat.

I don;t know how many of Burke's connections are genuinely novel to him: did anyone before postulate that the Black Death led to the emergence of automation by making machines cheaper than manpower for the first time? Or did he get it from an earlier source? Whic
Jun 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
I really liked the concept, even if filled with names. The connections were maybe even more subtle than I thought, and sometimes I would have liked to have more meta-narrative to bring it all together. What really hampered my enjoyment is my complete inability to understand how machines work by looking at a picture. So I was lost for many of the mechanical sections. If that is no problem for you, then go ahead :D The writing was accessible in other ways.

“Why should we look to the past in ord
TJ Eisenstein
History like you've never seen it. Brilliant, fun, sweeping, expansive, riveting, fanciful, did I mention fun? An oldie but goodie, stands up to the test of time. If you like the macro view of history (big history), history as an exploration of man's progression, the history of ideas, technology, and society, as opposed to history as dates and facts, and if you like puzzling over odd mechanical drawings until that "aha!" moment clicks and you understand finally how, for instance, a mechanical cl ...more
Dec 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely amazing stories of the connections between discoveries and inventions made over the course of history which influenced each other in unimaginable ways. Thoroughly educational, exciting, and entertaining!
Chris Brimmer
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Changed the way I looked at history and made me an amateur historian. Riveting history for people who don't like history. ...more
Andrei Barbu
Dec 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
Love the documentaries. The book reads less like a novel and more like the notes from a TV script.
Dec 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
From the digging stick to navigation and power, light, warfare, defense, and communications, connections are not always linear and do not always depend on great inventors acting alone.
Ty Lastrapes
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, history
Just as good as the 1st connections video series. :)
Alistair Ramsden
Sep 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It's awesome. This is my fahrenheit 451 book. ...more
Nov 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent. A wonderful way to approach history.
Textbook for NSCI 300 at CSUSB. Slow start, but ultimately informative.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

James Burke 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.

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Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” So, this January, as we celebrate Martin Luther King...
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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.” 56 likes
“Today, the people who make things change, the people who have that knowledge, are the scientists and the technologists, who are the true driving force of humanity. And before you say what about the Beethovens and the Michelangelos? Let me suggest something with which you may disagree violently: that at best, the products of human emotion, art, philosophy, politics, music, literature, are interpretations of the world, that tell you more about the guy who's talking, than about the world he's talking about. Second hand views of the world, made third hand by your interpretation of them.” 7 likes
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