War is often said to be the mother of invention. However does the statement actually hold water? Is there statistical evidence suggesting that the rate of inventions increase during wartime periods?

This idea has been a topic of significant speculation. For example, it is the topic of the book The Fruits of War: How Military Conflict Accelerates Technology which argues:

Since man first wielded a stick in anger, war and conflict have been prime movers in the progress of science and technology... Michael White demonstrates in this superbly wide-ranging and brilliant history of innovation, almost all major technological developments can be traced back to times of war.

A slightly more skeptical tone is adopted by the website ingenious.org.uk:

Some inventions, such as the bouncing bomb or napalm, are genuine wartime inventions, but many military breakthroughs, including tanks and radar, were already being developed before war broke out. Is war the mother of invention or a hothouse for innovations?

So is war a significant driver of technological invention or innovation?

closed as off-topic by Oddthinking May 9 '15 at 8:24

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  • 2
    Add a specific claim, I'm afraid this is a bit board. – George Chalhoub May 9 '15 at 7:16
  • I appreciate you adding notability to the claim, but I am afraid that this would be more opinion based than anything. Besides, when in human history have we not been at war? – Larian LeQuella May 9 '15 at 12:46
  • 2
    @LarianLeQuella I think the claim is really about major conflicts since only major powers have the capacity to develop things like nuclear weapons, radar or aircraft. I'm also sure that some useful context (like the number of major new technologies over time) might shed some not-completely-opinion-based material. I was unconvinced by the book, for example, because it was selective about which inventions it used as examples. – matt_black May 9 '15 at 13:11

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