Engineers of Dreams: Great Bridge Builders and the Spanning of America

Engineers of Dreams: Great Bridge Builders and the Spanning of America

by Henry Petroski
     
 

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Petroski reveals the science and engineering--not to mention the politics, egotism, and sheer magic--behind America's great bridges, particularly those constructed during the great bridge-building era starting in the 1870s and continuing through the 1930s. It is the story of the men and women who built the St. Louis, the George Washington, and the Golden Gate bridges,

Overview

Petroski reveals the science and engineering--not to mention the politics, egotism, and sheer magic--behind America's great bridges, particularly those constructed during the great bridge-building era starting in the 1870s and continuing through the 1930s. It is the story of the men and women who built the St. Louis, the George Washington, and the Golden Gate bridges, drawing not only on their mastery of numbers but on their gifts for persuasion and self-promotion. It is an account of triumphs and ignominious disasters (including the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which literally twisted itself apart in a high wind). And throughout this grandly engaging book, Petroski lets us see how bridges became the "symbols and souls" of our civilization, as well as testaments to their builders' vision, ingenuity, and perseverance.



"Seamlessly linked...With astonishing scope and generosity of view, Mr. Petroski places the tradition of American bridge-building in perspective."--New York Times Book Review


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Focusing on five engineers and their creations, Petroski looks at the great bridge-building era that spanned from the 1870s to the 1930s. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Petroski, a civil engineering professor and author of The Pencil (LJ 3/1/90) and The Evolution of Useful Things (LJ 12/92), is one of the better scientist-writers around, and this book is in several ways his best. By focusing on a half-dozen bridge engineers who did epochal work, he manages to capture something of what it is about bridge building that inspires passion and dedication from the engineers who design, build, and study them. Wisely, the Brooklyn Bridge is not a focus here, having been covered well by David McCullough (The Great Bridge, S. & S., 1983); instead, we learn about the Hell Gate, the George Washington, the Eads in St. Louis, and, subtitle notwithstanding, the Firth of Forth and a few Canadian spans as well. We also learn about the men (exclusively) who dreamed them and made them real. One quibble: most of the engineering is elegantly explained, but once per chapter, some term shows up that-maddening-eludes every resource in a well-stocked library. Excellent for general collections and perfect for collections in the applied arts and sciences.-Mark L. Shelton, Worcester, Mass.
Gilbert Taylor
The era of record-breaking bridge" building, from the Civil War to the Depression, attracts Petroski to another of his delightful dilations about technology. Just as people seldom pause to ponder the paper clip, one of the artifacts whose story occupied "The Evolution of Useful Things" (1992), crossing a famous bridge arrests our thoughts, if at all, only to the extent of grousing about heavy traffic at the tollbooth. Alas, the soaring structures deserve better attention, so Petroski brings forth the people who realized bridges, from the Golden Gate to the Hell Gate. Each major U.S. bridge, he observes, was pushed forward by a mastermind engineer for whom drafting skill was the minimum requirement: he had to secure financial and political support, in which writing and speaking talent counted as much as calculating. (Gustav Lindenthal, builder of the Hell Gate Bridge, extolled his projects as symbols of advancing civilization.) A fascinating raconteur of ambitions and structural successes and failures, Petroski elevates these vaulting bridges into the epics and icons their builders intended.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307773135
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/15/2010
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
496
Sales rank:
595,327
File size:
14 MB
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