Catalogue


The Society for Useful Knowledge : how Benjamin Franklin and friends brought the Enlightenment to America /
Jonathan Lyons.
edition
1st U.S. edition.
imprint
New York : Bloomsbury Press, 2013, c2013.
description
xiv, 220 p. ; 25 cm.
ISBN
1608195538, 9781608195534
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
New York : Bloomsbury Press, 2013, c2013.
isbn
1608195538
9781608195534
contents note
The age of Franklin -- Breaking the chain -- The Leather Apron men -- Useful knowledge -- Sense and sensibility -- Dead and useless languages -- Knowledge and rebellion -- The mechanics of revolution -- Epilogue: manufacturing America.
catalogue key
8989294
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. 197-207) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 2013-05-15:
Lyons (Islam Through Western Eyes) here directs his attention to 18th-century America. His particular focus is Benjamin Franklin's role in developing the concept of "useful knowledge," with ideas judged by how well they apply to daily life. Lyons contends that this viewpoint originated in Europe, where knowledge had become moribund, lacking the vigor of American thinking. (He occasionally overstates the differences between American and European thought.) According to observers on both continents, the challenges of establishing a new society required useful skills that best served an enlightened people. Franklin exemplified and encouraged progress in many practical fields, ranging from science (e.g., his experiments with electricity) to political theory (e.g., his early advocacy of colonial union). His interests, from astronomy to education, in all cases related to the situations of everyday life. Lyons places Franklin at the heart of a transcontinental debate over the purpose of intellectual life, but readers may wish that he had directed more attention to the implications of this practical mode of thinking. Did the American emphasis on useful knowledge devolve into something akin to anti-intellectualism as it was more widely disseminated among the populace in later decades? VERDICT Those concerns aside, Lyons has raised important questions about the origins of "useful knowledge" in America that will have wide appeal. Recommended.-Charles K. Piehl, Minnesota State Univ., Mankato (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2013-04-08:
Benjamin Franklin famously counseled that knowledge is valuable in direct proportion to its utility. Unfortunately, Lyons's (The House of Wisdom) repetitive cultural history of a shopworn subject will be of little use to anyone at all familiar with the topic. Still, like Louis Menand's The Metaphysical Club, his approach is an engaging one-by exploring ideas through the people who thought them, he adds substance to an otherwise airy discussion. Franklin, along with Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, botanist John Bartram, and physician Benjamin Rush, all sought to foster utilitarian knowledge in hopes of enhancing the economic, political, and social character of colonial America. To that end, Franklin launched a kind of proto-think tank in 1727 that "combined the conviviality of a private drinking club with the advantages of a mutual-aid society, the moral and intellectual self-improvement of a discussion circle, and the altruism of a civic association." Lyons's obvious and unsurprising conclusion is that these prescient thinkers secured the values of the "mechanic, artisan, engineer, and inventor in American society." Agent: Will Lippincott, Lippincott Massie McQuilkin. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Reviews
Review Quotes
[A] highly readable account of the societies (the title one, later the American Philosophical Society, being the prototype), academies, mechanics#146; associations, and other social institutions the group engendered that believed science and experimentation to be collective endeavors, Lyons illuminates a formative period in American cultural history.
Clear, focused snapshots of a movement and its celebrated leader.
"Clear, focused snapshots of a movement and its celebrated leader." -- Kirkus Reviews
Lyons has done a fine job in giving us a glimpse not just of Franklin the virtuoso but of the world in which he lived and worked, his contemporaries, and their enthusiasms.
Lyons has raised important questions about the origins of "useful knowledge" in America that will have wide appeal. Recommended.
Lyons has two principal and intertwined stories to tell: the career of Franklin and the rise of the useful and the practical in American education and society...clear, focused snapshots of a movement and its celebrated leader.
Nothing was more crucial to America's founding than the Enlightenment, and no one played a more important role than Benjamin Franklin in transmitting the ideas of the Age of Enlightenment to the wider public in the form of useful knowledge. Jonathan Lyons, an engaging storyteller and insightful scholar, conveys the breathtaking sweep of this crucial story with grace and flair, and in the process he provides a compelling and innovative perspective on the American Revolution and the new nation that emerged from that upheaval.
"Nothing was more crucial to America's founding than the Enlightenment, and no one played a more important role than Benjamin Franklin in transmitting the ideas of the Age of Enlightenment to the wider public in the form of useful knowledge. Jonathan Lyons, an engaging storyteller and insightful scholar, conveys the breathtaking sweep of this crucial story with grace and flair, and in the process he provides a compelling and innovative perspective on the American Revolution and the new nation that emerged from that upheaval." John Ferling, author of The Ascent of George Washington and Independence: The Struggle to Set America Free "In this highly readable account ... Lyons illuminates a formative period in American cultural history, the theme being that 'the value of learning and knowledge . . . is directly proportional to its practical import and utility.'" Booklist "Lyons has raised important questions about the origins of "useful knowledge" in America that will have wide appeal. Recommended." Library Journal "Clear, focused snapshots of a movement and its celebrated leader." Kirkus Reviews
Sophisticated and thoughtful... In The House of Wisdom , [Lyons] shapes his narrative around the travels of the little-known but extraordinary Adelard of Bath, an English monk who traveled to the East in the early 12th century.... Mr. Lyons's narrative is vivid and elegant.
The House of Wisdom: How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization is a 320-page treasure trove of information for the uninitiated that packs a powerful punch of science, history, geography, politics and general knowledge at a time when so much disinformation about the Arab world is swirling around in various media
This is a refreshing book, one that discovers, or rediscovers, common ground between Islam and Christendom, a historical survey that reminds us that civilizations can converse as well as clash.
With a storyteller's eye for the revealing detail and an artist's feel for the sweep of history, Jonathan Lyons has uncovered the debt that the Christian world--and Western civilization--owes to Muslim philosophy and science. House of Wisdom is a fascinating and picturesque page-turner.
You can listen to an interview with Jonathan Lyons on WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show here: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/lopate/2013/jun/25/bringing-enlightenment-america/
You can listen to an interview with Jonathan Lyons on WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show here:http://www.wnyc.org/shows/lopate/2013/jun/25/bringing-enlightenment-america/
This item was reviewed in:
Publishers Weekly, April 2013
Booklist, May 2013
Library Journal, May 2013
Kirkus Reviews, June 2013
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Bowker Data Service Summary
A spellbinding, rich history of the American Enlightenment. Offering fresh, original portraits of figures like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Rush, and the inimitable, endlessly inventive Franklin, Lyons gives us a vital new perspective on the American founding. He illustrates how the movement for useful knowledge is key to understanding the flow of American society and culture from colonial times to our digital present.
Main Description
Benjamin Franklin and his contemporaries brought the Enlightenment to America--an intellectual revolution that laid the foundation for the political one that followed. With the "first Drudgery" of settling the American colonies now well and truly past, Franklin announced in 1743, it was high time that the colonists set about improving the lot of humankind through collaborative inquiry. From Franklin's idea emerged the American Philosophical Society, an association hosted in Philadelphia and dedicated to the harnessing of man's intellectual and creative powers for the common good. The animus behind the Society was and is a disarmingly simple one-that the value of knowledge is directly proportional to its utility. This straightforward idea has left a profound mark on American society and culture and on the very idea of America itself-and through America, on the world as a whole. From celebrated historian of knowledge Jonathan Lyons comes The Society for Useful Knowledge , telling the story of America's coming-of-age through its historic love affair with practical invention, applied science, and self-reliance. Offering fresh, original portraits of figures like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Rush, and the inimitable, endlessly inventive Franklin, Lyons gives us vital new perspective on the American founding. He illustrates how the movement for useful knowledge is key to understanding the flow of American society and culture from colonial times to our digital present.
Main Description
Benjamin Franklin and his contemporaries brought the Enlightenment to America--an intellectual revolution that laid the foundation for the political one that followed. With the "first Drudgery" of settling the American colonies now well and truly past, Franklin announced in 1743, it was high time that the colonists set about improving the lot of humankind through collaborative inquiry. From Franklin's idea emerged the American Philosophical Society, an association hosted in Philadelphia and dedicated to the harnessing of man's intellectual and creative powers for the common good. The animus behind the Society was and is a disarmingly simple one-that the value of knowledge is directly proportional to its utility. This straightforward idea has left a profound mark on American society and culture and on the very idea of America itself-and through America, on the world as a whole.From celebrated historian of knowledge Jonathan Lyons comes The Society for Useful Knowledge , telling the story of America's coming-of-age through its historic love affair with practical invention, applied science, and self-reliance. Offering fresh, original portraits of figures like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Rush, and the inimitable, endlessly inventive Franklin, Lyons gives us vital new perspective on the American founding. He illustrates how the movement for useful knowledge is key to understanding the flow of American society and culture from colonial times to our digital present.
Table of Contents
Significant Eventsp. xi
The Age of Franklinp. 1
Breaking the Chainp. 21
The Leather Apron Menp. 39
Useful Knowledgep. 57
Sense and Sensibilityp. 73
Dead and Useless Languagesp. 95
Knowledge and Rebellionp. 117
The Mechanics of Revolutionp. 141
Epilogue: Manufacturing Americap. 167
Acknowledgmentsp. 175
Notesp. 177
Bibliographyp. 197
Indexp. 209
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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