Skip to main content

History of Technology: The 20th Century

The Bomb’s Early Light (October 13, 2010)

Richard Rhodes, Historian and Pulitzer Prize-winner Author

Lone Eagles: America's First Orbital Spaceflights (September 23, 2009)

The Atomic Age: a Linda Hall Library Exhibition

The Atomic Age
The atomic age began with a handful of scientists investigating radioactivity decades before the first atomic bomb exploded at the Trinity Test Site in New Mexico on July 16, 1945. In this three-part online exhibition explore the history of atomic science, expand your nuclear physics knowledge, and discover how radiation is part of our daily lives.


Technology in the last century expanded at an almost exponential rate, in the generation of novelties and in their dissemination. This growth took place both within previously existing fields and in totally novel areas created by the application of scientific research in such fields as quantum and condensed matter physics, molecular biology, and polymer chemistry.

Favorite targets of research are the history of electronic communications (radio, television, information storage), computer technology, space technology, and the interactions between military needs and the funding and development of innovative technologies and their often-unintended spinoffs.

Major Acquisitions

Linda Hall Library's first major purchase was the library collection of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1946. This acquisition provided a strong foundation for the Library's collections including journals, rare books, and the exchange program that supports the interchange of material with foreign academies and societies.

In 1995, the Engineering Societies Library (ESL) was transferred to the Library, an acquisition equal in significance to the Academy collection, and greater in terms of the number of volumes received. The ESL collection added depth to both the journal and monograph collections, especially with material published before 1950.  Also included are historical standards and specifications, papers from society meetings, and pamphlets.

Additional collections acquired in the last few decades incude aerospace materials, parachute history, and natural gas materials, as well as others.  Some of these collections are not cataloged.  Research Specialists can assist with their use. 

Selected Monographs