Originally Posted by Kino
Staying off topic, with the subject you introduced, this question of technical breakthroughs has long fascinated me. Some 30 years ago I was very short with an interview panel at the University of Bath, where I had applied to do a Ph. D. in the history of technology, on the history of the 35mm still camera. It rapidly became clear that all they were prepared to countenance was yet another arts-graduate rehash of the impact of 35mm in illustrated magazines.
They were totally uninterested in the technical reasons why and how the 35mm camera had progressed so far and so fast, i.e. they weren't actually interested in technology at all. Machine tools, metallurgy, lens design, the possibilities of extreme focal lengths and very fast lenses, the progress in film design: they dismissed all this as irrelevant. For that matter they seemed to have only the shakiest grasp on how and why illustrated magazines had become popular.
The interview ended with my pointing out as politely as possible that they were supposed to be a department dealing with both history and technology, and that I saw little evidence that they had any understanding at all of the latter. They were of course history graduates to a man (or woman): no-one there had studied engineering at all.