Roma AgrawalAug 19, 2023
Nuts and Bolts
Seven Small Inventions That Changed the World (in a Big Way)
W. W. Norton 2023
Smartphones, skyscrapers, spacecraft. Modern technology seems mind-bogglingly complex. But beneath the surface, it can be beautifully simple.
In Nuts & Bolts: Seven Small Inventions that Changed the World (in a Big Way) (W. W. Norton, 2023), award-winning Shard engineer and broadcaster Roma Agrawal deconstructs our most complex feats of engineering into seven fundamental inventions: the nail, spring, wheel, lens, magnet, string and pump. Each of these objects is itself a wonder of design, the result of many iterations and refinements. Together, they have enabled humanity to see the invisible, build the spectacular, communicate across vast distances, and even escape our planet.
Tracing the surprising journeys of each invention through the millennia, Agrawal reveals how handmade Roman nails led to modern skyscrapers, how the potter’s wheel enabled space exploration, and how humble lenses helped her conceive a child against the odds.
She invites us to marvel at these small but perfectly formed inventions, sharing the stories of the remarkable, and often unknown, scientists and engineers who made them possible. The nuts and bolts that make up our world may be tiny, and are often hidden, but they’ve changed our lives in dramatic ways.
This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher.