Better paper versus cheaper iron

[T]he British inventions of the eighteenth century–cheap iron and the steam engine, in particular–were so transformative… the technologies invented in France–in paper production, glass, and knitting–were not.

via Delong. It’s stupid how I feel pride in that passage. It’s too bad that all the French inventions — which are no doubt way more important than I’d think — seem stereotypically fey and cheese-smelling in comparison to British iron and Welsh-coal-driven steam.

It’s almost as unfair a list as the following, which was cruelly produced during a debate in the pages of the TLS over how science-friendly Islam is or has been:

It is too strong to say that there was no science at all in the Islamic world after al-Ghazali, but such science as there was led to nothing important. Certainly the great period of Islamic science came to an end around the twelfth century. Nor has it been revived. A 2002 survey by Nature identified just three areas of science in which Islamic countries excel: desalination, falconry and camel reproduction.

A list designed to humiliate. I wish I could have been in the room where people debated the merits and demerits of defining camel reproduction as a science.


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