In the late 1800s, Indians seemed to be a people left behind by the Industrial Revolution, dismissed as “not a mechanical race.” Today Indians are among the world’s leaders in engineering and technology. In this international history spanning nearly 150 years, Ross Bassett—drawing on a unique database of every Indian to graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology between its founding and 2000—charts their ascent to the pinnacle of high-tech professions.
As a group of Indians sought a way forward for their country, they saw a future in technology. Bassett examines the tensions and surprising congruences between this technological vision and Mahatma Gandhi’s nonindustrial modernity. India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, sought to use MIT-trained engineers to build an India where the government controlled technology for the benefit of the people. In the private sector, Indian business families sent their sons to MIT, while MIT graduates established India’s information technology industry.
By the 1960s, students from the Indian Institutes of Technology (modeled on MIT) were drawn to the United States for graduate training, and many of them stayed, as prominent industrialists, academics, and entrepreneurs. The MIT-educated Indian engineer became an integral part of a global system of technology-based capitalism and focused less on India and its problems—a technological Indian created at the expense of a technological India.
[Bassett’s] work traces the rise of India in the technological sphere in modern times, and here it offers fresh and interesting perspective… The book is a perfect read for someone who has interest in today’s technological world and tries to understand it in historical perspective.
Bassett has written an excellent account of the development of India through technology during the last 50 years.
A rich and fascinating story that interweaves the histories of modern India and the United States. Bassett elegantly combines social history with the history of technology, and the private lives of individuals with national desire and state policy.
In just fifty years, the technological emblem of India went from the hand-operated spinning wheel to the computer. Bassett explains how this happened with historical and human insight. This fascinating book is not just about India, but about the role of technology in social, economic, and political progress.
- 400 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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