With the "first Drudgery" of settling the American colonies now well and truly past, Benjamin 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. Lyons illustrates how a social movement in support of useful knowledge is key to understanding the flow of American history and the development of our society and culture from colonial times to our digital present.