Wings of Wood, Wings of Metal: Culture and Technical Choice in American Airplane Materials, 1914-1945

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Princeton University Press, 1999 - Transportation - 313 pages
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Schatzberg shows that American aeronautical engineers and airplane designers were swayed by the symbolism of airplane materials, a symbolism that linked metal with technological progress and wood with preindustrial craft traditions. This symbolism encouraged the aeronautical community to focus research and development on metal airplanes at the expense of promising projects involving wood - despite the fact that other countries continued to produce highly successful aircraft with wood through the end of World War II. According to Schatzberg, technical personnel in the American military played the key role in this process. They had little evidence for metal's superiority but used their dominant influence to press the case that metal was the wave of the future and that airplanes would inevitably follow ships and abandon wood. Wings of Wood, Wings of Metal shows clearly that culture and ideology help determine the most basic characteristics of modern industrial technologies. The book also underlines the historically powerful influence of the military on twentieth-century technology.

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World War I and the Origins
Metal and Its Discontents
Government Support

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About the author (1999)

Schatzberg is Assistant Professor in the Department of the History of Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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