Lewis Mumford was, I think, the greatest writer on the relationship between man and machinery --- that is, "technology", although he would have referred to it as "technics" --- of the twentieth century.

Born in Flushing, New York in 1895, Mumford lived for nearly the whole of his life in New York --- both the city and the State. It was a long life, too; he died in January 1990 in Amenia, Dutchess County, N.Y.

His first book, The Story of Utopias, was published in 1922, and his last, Sketches From Life exactly sixty years later, in 1982. Taken together, these two titles neatly convey the mindscape over which Lewis Mumford ranged (he wrote some thirty books in all).

He always rejected the various titles informally thrust upon him : philosopher, architectural critic, town planner, artist and scholar, though he was eminently all of these things. (He was in fact, and despite these protests, architectural critic for the New Yorker, introducing to the public the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, among others.)

Lewis Mumford's utopian vision began the twentieth century with an enthusiasm for machinery as a partner to man, which would enable him to reach ever greater heights. As he and the century passed the half way mark, however, he effectively reversed this opinion and, notably in The Myth of the Machine, began to insist upon what he now saw as the oncoming tragedy of dehumanisation via technical achievement and the need to oppose this emotionally, morally, aesthetically and organically.

( There's very little doubt, then, that Mumford would heartily have approved of Everything, Kansas. )

Extraordinarily, given the range of his work, he never attained any college degree, having been forced to leave City College, New York because of tuberculosis. Given his penetrating and lifelong analysis of Western civilisation, of the American people, of civilisation and its history as expressed in art and architecture, together with his co-founding, in 1926, of the Regional Planning Association of America, his lack of formal pieces of educational paper makes as little difference to his acknowledged position as one of the great humanists as it did to him.


Some books by Lewis Mumford:

The Story of Utopias. 1922, Boni and Liveright
Sticks and Stones: a Study of American Architecture and Civilisation. 1924, Boni and Liveright
The Golden Day : A Study in American Experience and Culture. 1926, Harcourt Brace
The Culture of Cities. 1938, Harcourt Brace
From the Ground Up. 1956, Harcourt Brace
The Transformations of Man. 1956, Harper and Row
The City in History. 1961, Harcourt Brace
The Urban Prospect. 1968, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
The Myth of The Machine. 1967, 1970, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
Interpretations and Forecasts 1922-1972. 1972, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich