Summary of Making the Modern World

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Making the Modern World book summary
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8 Overall

9 Importance

9 Innovation

6 Style


Throughout this challenging read, scientist and policy analyst Vaclav Smil examines how the world uses materials. He wrestles with dense concepts using a specialized vocabulary and some jargon. Persevere anyway. This is an important, fascinating academic study. Smil’s approach is historical and multidisciplinary: He compares how algae, birds and beavers use materials to how humans use them, and traces human development from the first stone tools through the Bowflex machine. Smil’s treatise should be required reading for anyone thinking about contemporary economics and humanity’s future. getAbstract recommends his rigorous study to investors, ecologists, futurists, historians, and students of history and business.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How people have utilized materials throughout history,
  • How materials’ flow affects the world and its economies, and
  • How material use must change.

About the Author

Scientist and policy analyst Vaclav Smil is distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Manitoba. He wrote Made in the USA, Should We Eat Meat? and many other books and articles.



The Historical March of Materials
Every living thing uses materials. This use falls into five overall categories: 1) employing natural materials as tools; 2) creating “protective or prey-catching structures” (like spiders’ webs); 3) removing biomass and artificial materials to build designed...

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