Social Sciences and Humanities   > Home   > Technology and Innovation   > Issue

Vol 7 - Issue 1

Technology and Innovation

List of Articles

Introduction: Developing innovation trajectories and… innovators
Sophie Boutillier

This article is the introduction to “Innovations and Innovators: An in-depth look at their common trajectories”, the second volume which makes up this issue of Technology and Innovation. It follows Volume 1, which focused more on innovation than on the innovator. In this volume too, we are compelled to emphasize that the two are not always easily identifiable. However, is this really important when the aim is to draw the reader’s attention to salient facts that have shaped the history of certain techniques. Indeed, our goal is to have a better understanding of the world in which we live.

David M. Smith and the invention of the clothespin in mid-19th century America
Philippe Bruyerre

The clothespin, an everyday technical object, was patented in 1853 by David M. Smith, an inventor and entrepreneur from the small town of Springfield, Vermont. Based on his biography, this article examines the technical and socio-economic determinants of an object that has been the subject of more than 2,000 patents in a century and a half in the United States, and is an icon of American ingenuity.

From heroic inventors to collective innovations: The Grenoble glove industry in the perpetual search of progress (1830-1930)
Audrey Colonel

Considered “revolutionary inventions” of the glove industry, the iron fist and the creation of hand sizes in the 1830s brought great fame to Xavier Jouvin (1801-1844). He was a heroic inventor who has inspired a great deal of literature since the end of the 19th century, overshadowing the innovations introduced to the industryby glove manufacturers in search of technical progress during the last quarter of the 19th century. At the beginning of the 20th century, the search for innovations in the product range on the market intensified at a time when the skin glove – which had become commonplace – was no longer as attractive as in the previous century. Glove-making companies were setting up research laboratories and design offices to promote technical progress. They integrated chemists and engineers into their workforce, like Mr. and Mrs. Szmukler working for Établissements Reynier in the 1920s, identifiable on patents and in the technical press.

A tailor-made unit! Science and innovators supporting evaluation and improvement of wool thickness to revive the French drapery industry (1750-1799)
Agathe Giraud

During the second half of the 18th century, on top of the numerous conflicts that were disrupting Europe, France was engaged in a “wool war” with Spain and England for control over the continent’s fleeces. French governments acknowledged that the quality of local wool was lower than that of their neighbors, which meant France was having to depend on both British and Spanish supplies, endangering its drapery industry and economy. Political elites thus decided to ally with French scientists in the hope of vastly improving the quality of French wool. However, since wool quality, particularly wool thickness, had for centuries only been assessed with the help of sight and touch, how would French manufacturers know for sure that the improved fleeces would meet the standards of their competitors? The answer had to come from science. At a time when around 800 different measuring units were being used simultaneously all over the country, it was now crucial to develop a calculation system that would allow French drapery workers to measure wool thickness precisely and compare it to the fleeces from Spain and England. Life sciences and metrology had to become the foundations upon which a renewed and reasoned sheep farming concept and expanding wool trade could be built.

The implementation of electronic medical records in the UK. An organizational innovation to support new behavior in the production and consumption of healthcare: An example for France?
Didier Castiel

This article describes and evaluates the implementation and adoption of detailed electronic medical records in healthcare in the UK, thereby providing early feedback for the ongoing local and national rollout of the NHS Care Records Service. Electronic medical record applications are being developed and implemented far more slowly than was originally envisioned. Despite considerable delays and frustration, support for electronic medical records remains strong, including from NHS clinicians. Political and financial factors are now perceived to threaten nationwide implementation of electronic medical records. The more tailored, responsive approach that is emerging is becoming better aligned with the perceived needs of NHS organisations and is likely to deliver clinically useful electronic medical record systems. The French electronic medical record system has come up against similar challenges: it is difficult to implement, with 10 years to archive and it is only a digital health record, which is to say it is far from matching the scale of its British counterpart.

Two Schumpeterian entrepreneurs: The Bombrini brothers’ Ansaldo company and foreign markets between the 19th and 20th centuries
Paola Nardone, Natascia Ridolfi

This article analyzes the company policy of Ansaldo, a Genoese business under the direction of the Bombrini brothers, both innovative and dynamic entrepreneurs. Their leadership placed Ansaldo at the top of national naval and mechanical production. This sector, which was particularly strategic in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, required massive investment to carry out projects aimed not only at achieving a vertical structure in the production process, but also at allowing Ansaldo to measure its own capacity in a highly specialized sector such as the naval-mechanical industry. The Bombrini brothers began to turn their attention to the foreign market in order to create new opportunities for product success. This decision was made primarily because of the increasingly negative effects of the crisis in the metalworking sector, caused by the progressive disengagement of the government in military orders. This article was prepared using archive documentation and an extensive bibliography.

Ordinary innovation of an everyday product: The example of bread
Sophie Reboud, Corinne Tanguy

This article illustrates the interweaving of technical, social, organizational and regulatory innovations that have shaped the history of bread, a staple food in many civilizations. By tracing the development of this product through the millennia, we address the social developments that have accompanied technical innovation in the agriculture and processing sectors, leading to the industrial system we know today. Two recent examples, which we regard as emblematic of current developments, suggest that this dynamic of innovation has developed in a particular direction, which today translates into standardization within the bread-making industry and a risk of technical and organizational lock-in.

Innovation without innovator. The long history
Cédric Perrin

As a conclusion to the two volumes of Technology and Innovation, which center on the trajectories of innovations and innovators, this article provides a brief reflection, throughout history, on innovations without innovators, inventions without inventors using three examples: Neolithization, the mill and the container.