Abraham Lincoln had a lifelong fascination with science and technology, a fascination that would help institutionalize science, win the Civil War, and propel the nation into the modern age. Readers will learn through Lincoln: The Fire of Genius how science and technology gradually infiltrated Lincoln’s remarkable life and influenced his growing desire to improve the condition of all men. The book traces this progression from a simple farm boy to a president who changed the world.
Counter to conventional wisdom, subsistence farming provides a considerable education in agronomic science, forest ecology, hydrology, and even a little civil engineering. Continuing through a lifetime of self-study, curiosity, and hard work, Lincoln became the only President with a patent, advocated for technological advancement as a legislator in Illinois and in Washington, and became the “go-to” western lawyer on technology, and patent cases during his legal career. During the Civil War, Lincoln drew upon his commitment to science and personally encouraged inventors while taking dramatic steps to institutionalize science via the Smithsonian Institution, create the National Academy of Sciences, and initiate the Department of Agriculture. Lincoln’s insistence on high-tech weaponry, balloon surveillance, strategic use of telegraphy, and railroad deployment positioned the North to achieve Union victory.