This a very unusual book about innovation, because it is written from a social history perspective rather than a technical one - it is more about how things entered the mainstream rather than what happened in the lab. So amongst the very numerous entries on television, for example, there is fascinating stuff about the first person ever to perform on TV (a comedian called A. Dolan in 1927 and nobody has ever found out what the A stood for), the first drama series (Vine Street) back in 1938 would you believe), the first commercial (Kentucky Pipe Tobacco 1939) and the first soap opera (Faraway Hill in 1946). And while all the prominent subjects are covered, from airlines through to zoos, there are lots of offbeat topics as well: things like the first use of photography in advertising, the first time anyone drove a car from one city to another, the first children's novel, the first one-way streets, the first school exams - even the first sliced bred (Chillicothe, Missouri, where I have now learned they have a sliced Bread Day every year!) And not forgetting the first flight attendant (United Airlines 1930), which Mr Reineke above took such exception. Why I cannot imagine - personally I find it fascinating to learn how a whole new profession for women was created. It may be irrelevant to Mr Reineke, but certainly not to me! The book is a cracker, a real reference book but a great read too.
I bought this book based on a recommendation from The Economist, which I generally trust blindly. I shall no longer. Though I have found the idea interesting I find the selection of "firsts" questionable. Finding relatively relevant "firsts" (the first AIRLINE) next to totally irrelevant ones (the first airline flight attendant) put me off immediately. And when looking for a specific (and arguably relevant) medical first, such as Prof. WG Forssmann's first human cardiac catheterisation (performed on himself!!!), there is no entry.