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The Power of an Empty Metal Box

Unsung Science

May 26 2023 • 36 mins

We’ve been shipping stuff across oceans for centuries. But until 1956, we loaded our ships in the dumbest way possible: one at a time. Then Malcolm McClean came along. He envisioned lifting the big metal box part off a truck and setting it directly down onto a ship. Every one of these boxes would be identical and interchangeable, maximizing space and minimizing waste. The shipping container was born — an idea that was so powerful, it rejiggered the global economy, gutted cities, and turned China into the world’s manufacturer.

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