"Best Book Title of the Year?...the popular science is fun and easily accessible, and there's more to the inventors' experiments than the title can contain."
LOS ANGELES TIMES
"Wearing’s background as a science educator is advantageous in this entertaining piece of popular science: she portrays lively personalities and eccentric projects in concrete prose."
"This book sparkles with heaps of ideas, some plain bonkers, others, like the car, more pedestrian. Many are green. But this book is fun and full of quirks because it is about people..There are many more goodies in this readable book...Of course, not all inventors are bonkers, but they are humans, with all the human frailties perhaps magnified by their creativity and by our scrutiny. This makes a fine yarn."
"Edison’s Concrete Piano is ...one of those enjoyable books that can either be devoured quickly or picked up in a quiet moment for a light read. The book left me with a sense of wonder at the gift these men had – their creativity and resilience. I’m sure my appreciation was enhanced by having a glimpse into the difficulties they faced in their private lives, making their contributions all the more incredible. This book is an interesting, inspirational and easy read, providing pages of fascinating facts and insights.
"Concrete Piano is a smart, sophisticated book, full of information gems that have eluded even the most nerdy trivia fans that I know (yes, I have quizzed them). From beginning to end the book engages and gives the reader a fascinating portrait of the personal lives of these inventors, and also the impact their achievements have had. To then delve into the theme of failure—how each saw his achievements in light of his own hopes and expectations, or how the public saw the more radical experiments—is nothing short of brilliant. I had a very emotional reaction to the book, it did that thing I think you probably meant for it to: reminded me how crazy and amazing the universe we live in is, and also how much we are capable of both because of and in spite of our own foibles. I want to commend you on the academics, research, heart, and finesse that have gone into weaving such an incredible tome. ."
EMILY SHULTZ, author of Heaven is Small, Joyland
Judy Wearing has written a captivating book on success and failure. In her portraits of sixteen inventors, she shows us how even the most gifted and prolific among them have sometimes missed the mark. But their failures, which only emphasize their humanity, do not diminish their many successful achievements. This book is full of lessons for inventors and non-inventors alike."
HENRY PETROSKI, Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and Professor of History, Duke University; author of Success through Failure
The author’s enthusiasm for her subject matter bubbles off the page and is rather infectious! ."
NANCY FORAN, editor
Thank you so much for your informative and fun book on inventors and inventions... I have a great many books in my library on inventions and inventors, and now I have placed yours on a special shelf where I keep my favorites. ."
A fascinating book. Wearing has woven engaging stories about the genius and failings of a number of historic and modern science pioneers. Who knew that the Great Da Vinci considered himself a failure who wasted time despite creating enough ingenious devices to fill a museum (in France). Or that James Watt practically poisoned people in attempting to heal them. And Edison, someone we are all familiar with as a great inventor actually created a musical instrument that was solid as a rock but which ... well, I don't want to give away the story, let's just say there is a reason concrete pianos are rare. As an engineer, I was intrigued by all the inventors who attempted quite odd ways to create flying machines - odd to us, but understandable when the only examples to work with were birds. Which doesn't explain Cristie's flying tank idea. That one started odd and stayed odd. In a way, the failures of great people somehow make our foibles seem more acceptable. On the other hand, who among us has invented a light bulb recently. Wearing gives credit where credit is due while exposing the clay feet of great people. It's nice to know that we are all human and eccentric in so many different ways. ."
It almost goes without saying that not all inventions by great inventors had, by definition, to be successful; there had to be at least some failures. However, it's easy to see that the general public may never have heard of them. In this book, the author has selected sixteen inventions, each one by a different inventor, that were unsuccessful. After the Introduction, the book is divided into sixteen chapters (one per invention) grouped into three main sections: The Historic Age (from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries), The Golden Age (from the nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries) and The Modern Era (from the early twentieth century onwards). The list of inventors includes da Vinci, Watt, Hooke, Edison, Tesla, Ford, Bell as well as others - even Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard are included. In each case, the author provides a brief outline (to varying degrees) of the inventor's life, other inventions, success (and failure) rate and what went wrong with the particular invention highlighted in the chapter. The writing style is clear, friendly, highly accessible and quite engaging. The only sketches/diagrams/photos of the inventions are found on the first page of each chapter; otherwise, no additional figures are included. This is a fun book that can be enjoyed by anyone - especially those fascinated by the history and evolution of technology. ."
Overall, this book is a good (and relatively quick) read and definitely worth looking at for anyone with an interest in science.