Ralph Waldo Emerson on steam and coal, 1860

In 1860, the American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson published “The Conduct of Life,” a widely read collection of essays on topics such as beauty, power, culture, and wealth. Emerson’s reflections included commentary on the power of steam and coal, and the ways in which people harnessed these tools to transform the natural world and society.

How does Emerson see the role of technology and invention in the creation of wealth?

What does Emerson mean when he calls coal a “portable climate”?


Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Wealth.” In The Conduct of Life, 1860.

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