cartoon of man controlled by his gadgetsWhat is Technology?

Two points when what you learn contradicts what you thought you knew

Critical thinking:

  1. figure out the question you want to consider
  2. think through what key words mean
  3. what information might be relevant?
  4. when you have gathered the information, the next question is how does it fit together
  5. can you summarize the pattern you see in one sentence or one action item?


What is the difference between science and technology?  What is the relationship between them?  These are important questions for our purposes, so I don't want you to use the two terms interchangeably.

If your grandmother or grandfather is making a cake, is she practicing or using science? --what is our definition of science, what does using science mean?baking science

What do you mean by science?

You might mean:


Narrow science:

cartoon--two men
                  looking at a vague furry object, one says: “Obviously,
                  your invention works in practice, but there’s one
                  insurmountable problem: It will never work in

“Obviously, your invention works in practice, but there’s one insurmountable problem: It will never work in theory.”

Definitions of Technology

Historically and even today, technology is more than the application of narrow science

An old-fashioned definition that is still useful:  Tredgold, 1828: "Engineering is the art of directing the great sources of power in nature for the use and convenience of man." (Florman p. 66.)

What lines do we need to draw to focus on technology?

My own definitions:

Technology= ideas, techniques, and tools for manipulating (or modifying) the environment.



Technology is about humans learning to control the environment, but it took a long time to get a sense of conscious control.

The major technological revolutions (see also  Five Industrial Revolutions )

  1. the invention of agriculture  about 7000 BCE
  2. the development of cities about 3000 BCE
  3. the medieval technological revolution approx. 800-1300 AD
  4. the age of exploration and the scientific revolution approx. 1400-1700
  5. the British Industrial Revolution approx. 1750-1830
  6. Mass production of metal goods (American system, assembly line) approx. 1840-1920
  7. The computer 1946-
  8. the biotechnology revolution? or merge our brains with computers (singularity)?

Or another approach that is more useful for the modern period:

graph of waves of innovation
Or 200 Countries, 200 years in 4 minutes

Reminder about dates.  There is no zeroth century, so the first century AD is from 1 to 100 and the 19th century from 1801 to 1900.  There is also no year zero, which is why the 21st century started in 2001, not 2000.  Historians are beginning to use BCE (before the common era) instead of BC, and, less often, CE (common era) instead of AD (anno domini means year of our Lord).  For more on the history of calendars see:  Centuries, Millenia, and Calendars

This page written and copyright Pamela E. Mack
HIST 1220
last updated 8/23/2019