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In American Genesis, which covers the century of technological innovation in the United States beginning in 1876,Thomas Hughes assigns special promi- nence to Thomas Edison as archetype of the independent nineteenth-century inventor. However, Hughes virtually ignores Edison’s famous contemporary and notorious adversary in the field of electric light and power, George Westinghouse. This comparative neglect of Westinghouse is consistent with other recent historians’ works, although it marks an intriguing departure from the prevailing view during the inventors’ lifetimes (and for decades afterward) of Edison and Westinghouse as the two “pioneer innovators” of the electrical industry. My recent re-evaluation of Westinghouse, facilitated by materials found in railroad archives, suggests that while Westinghouse and Edison shared important traits as inventors, they differed markedly in their approach to the business aspects of innovation. For Edison as an inventor, novelty was always paramount: the overriding goal of the business of innovation was simply to generate funding for new inventions. Edison therefore undertook just enough sales, product development, and manufacturing to accomplish this. Westinghouse, however, shared the attitudes of the railroads and other industries for whom he developed innovations: product development, standardization, system, and order were top priorities. Westinghouse thus better exemplifies the systematic approach to technological development that would become a hallmark of modern corporate research and development.

The author of the passage implies that the shift away from the views of Westinghouse’s contemporaries should be regarded as
A. a natural outgrowth of the recent revival of interest in Edison
B. a result of scholarship based on previously unknown documents
C. reflective of modern neglect of the views of previous generations
D. inevitable, given the changing trends in historical interpretations
E. surprising, given the stature that Westinghouse once had

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1 Answer(s)

Hi Sandeep and Nikita,

The correct answer is option E.

The sentence “it marks an intriguing departure from the prevailing view during the inventors’ lifetimes” implies that the way Westinghouse was viewed during his lifetime and the way he was viewed after his lifetime are different.

Although intriguing and surprising do not convey the same meaning, option E is the only choice that makes sense according to the passage.

Option D says it was inevitable. The problem here is we do not know whether it was inevitable or not.

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