“The division of labor, though it may bring to perfection the production of a country up to a certain point, is most deleterious in its effects upon the producers. To make pins to the best advantage, it may answer for a time to divide the operation into 20 parts. Let each man concentrate the whole of his attention on the one simple work, for instance, of learning to make pin heads, and on this ever let his time be consumed. It is astonishing the perfection and rapidity which he will acquire in performing the operation. But what is the result on the man? His powers of mind will dwindle, and his head become, for all practical purposes, after a number of generations, no larger than that of one of the pins he makes. He ceases to be a man, and becomes a mere tool.”
—Scientific American, January 1856
More gems from Scientific American’s first 175 years can be found on our shiny anniversary page.