Inventing for the Environment

From Lemelson Center Studies in Invention and Innovation series

Inventing for the Environment

Edited by Arthur P. Molella and Joyce Bedi

Essays by historians and practioners on how invention can benefit the environment.





Essays by historians and practioners on how invention can benefit the environment.

This ambitious book describes the many ways in which invention affects the environment (here defined broadly to include all forms of interaction between humans and nature). The book starts with nature itself and then leads readers to examine the built environment and then specific technologies in areas such as public health and energy.

Each part focuses on a single environmental issue. Topics range widely, from the role of innovation in urban landscapes to the relationship among technological innovation, public health, and the environment. Each part features an essay by a historian, an essay by a practitioner, and a "portrait of innovation" describing an individual whose work has made a difference. The mixture of historians and practitioners is critical because statements about the environment inevitably measure present and future conditions against those of the past. Early in the industrial revolution, smoke stacks were symbols of prosperity; at its end they were regarded as signs of pollution. Historical examples can also lead to the rediscovery of an old technology, as in the revival of straw bale construction. As it explores the history of invention for the environment, the book suggests many new ways to put the past to use for the common good.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262134279 418 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 49 illus.


$45.00 X ISBN: 9780262633284 418 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 49 illus.


Arthur P. Molella

Arthur P. Molella is Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Director of the Smithsonian Institution's Lemelson Center. He is the co-editor (with Joyce Bedi) of Inventing for the Environment (2003, MIT Press).

Joyce Bedi

Joyce Bedi is Senior Historian at the Smithsonian Institution's Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation.


  • This remarkable book mingles the insights of historians and innovators for a number of industrial ecology topics—and thereby lays a realistic foundation for the world's future. The preface and the final chapter are jewels that clarify the book's unique, interactive interior. Reading the book will motivate you to interpret the future both more wisely and creatively.

    Paul B. MacCready

    Chairman, AeroVironment Inc.

  • Inventing for the Environment opens a dialogue between the new environmental history and inventors, architects, and planners who seek sustainability. This is not the old formula of identifying problems that can be 'solved' through a technological fix. These contributors see a far more complex interpenetration of nature and culture. They identify biological solutions to technological problems, see urban forms as natural, argue that fires and watersheds have become cultural, and describe ways to recycle waste into substances more durable than steel.

    David E. Nye

    Center for American Studies, Odense University, author of America as Second Creation: Technology and Narratives of New Beginnings