Friday, July 15, 2011

New and Noteworthy---Inventive Confederate Minds

Confederate Invention: The Story of the Confederate States Patent Office and Its Inventors (Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War), H. Jackson Knight, Louisiana State University Press, 464 pages, $55.00.

Publisher's Description: The formation of the Confederate States of America included more than an attempt to create a new, sovereign nation--it inspired a flurry of creativity and entrepreneurialism in the South that fiercely matched Union ingenuity. H. Jackson Knight's Confederate Invention brings to light the forgotten history of the Confederacy's industrious inventors and its active patent office.

Despite the destruction wrought by the Civil War, evidence of Confederate inventions exists in the registry of the Confederate States Patent Office. Hundreds of southerners submitted applications to the agency to secure patents on their intellectual property, which ranged from a ''machine for operating submarine batteries,'' to a ''steam plough,'' to a ''combined knapsack and tent,'' to an ''instrument for sighting cannon.'' The Confederacy's most successful inventors included entrepreneurs, educators, and military men who sought to develop new weapons, weapon improvements, or other inventions that could benefit the Confederate cause as well as their own lives. Each creation belied the conception of a technologically backward South, incapable of matching the creativity and output of northern counterparts.

Knight's work provides a groundbreaking study that includes neglected and largely forgotten patents as well as an array of other primary sources. Details on the patent office's origins, inner workings, and demise, and accounts of southern inventors who obtained patents before, during, and after the war reveal a captivating history recovered from obscurity.

A novel creation in its own right, Confederate Invention presents the remarkable story behind the South's long-forgotten Civil War inventors and offers a comprehensive account of Confederate patents.

H. Jackson Knight is a registered United States patent agent with over twenty-five years' experience in all phases of technical development and patenting. He previously authored the book Patent Strategy for Researchers and Research Managers (2nd ed.) and has produced numerous articles and other publications on the patenting of inventions.

CWL: Once surprised by discovering that the Confederacy had its own Journal of Military Medicine, CWL is now not surprised that the Confederacy had a patent office. Knight has the qualifications for revealing a guide to Confederate inventiveness and business savy.

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