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September 24, 1938


Author Affiliations


From the Physiological Laboratory in the University of Cincinnati.

JAMA. 1938;111(13):1166-1168. doi:10.1001/jama.1938.02790390022007

The provocative writings of Lewis Mumford, especially his "Technics and Civilization"1 and his "The Culture of Cities,"2 offer a challenge. In tracing the evolution of the machine, he emphasizes its effect on us as living beings. The machine has grown, he says, independently of biologic considerations; has often made its own rules; has commonly become autonomous —cancerous—to the resultant degradation of man.

Persuasive proofs of this contention are many. The heyday of the rule of the machine over mankind was the period when coal was fuel, steam the prime mover, and iron the essential building material. He calls this, after Patrick Geddes, the paleotechnic period. Dominant roughly between 1850 and 1890, it gave rise to the West's worst cities, Dickens's "Coketowns." They remain as Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Merseburg, Essen, Elberfeld, Lille, Newark, Pittsburgh, Youngstown and many more. From gray to black, covered by a dome of smoke which

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