Power, Speed, and Form: Engineers and the Making of the Twentieth Century / Edition 1

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Overview

"This important book makes a significant and unique contribution to the cause of technological literacy. It will be of great value to nonspecialists and general readers precisely because of its introduction of simple equations and formulas: these sharpen and focus the technical argument without obscuring it with vague language or, worse, jargon."—Henry Petroski, Duke University, author of Success through Failure: The Paradox of Design

"This book fills an important need for a work that straddles the literacy-numeracy divide. It is a useful historical synthesis of the technical foundations of the American experience in the twentieth century."—Robert Friedel, University of Maryland, author of Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty

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Editorial Reviews

American Scientist - Thomas P. Hughes
David P. Billington and David P. Billington, Jr., hope that their new book will increase technological literacy among college students. But this well-written and nicely illustrated volume may also reach a broader audiences. Power, Speed, and Form will introduce engineering students to eminent predecessors from whom there is still much to learn, especially about the use of numerical language. This book will also help students in other disciplines appreciate engineering approaches to problem solving.
Booklist - George Cohen
The book is a sequel to The Innovators (1996), which covered American engineering from 1776 to 1883; the two books together explain the principal engineering ideas that helped transform the U.S. from an agrarian society in the eighteenth century to the industrial civilization it became in the twentieth century.
ASEE Prism - Robin Tatu
[A] coherent and appealing approach, introducing engineering as a historical sequence of ideas and events, part of a canon of great ideas. . . . [A]n engaging narrative that explores the work of key innovators. . . . For the Billingtons, design is the primary function of engineering, one that distinguishes it from science.
Civil Engineering - Ray Bert
The authors . . . discuss the development of each [innovation] in a way that is readily accessible to building engineers and non-engineers—their ultimate purpose. . . . The book, then, was meant to serve as a text for introductory engineering courses, especially those designed to help liberal arts students satisfy technical literacy requirements. Such courses can also excite engineering students by explaining how many innovations sprang from ideas that though novel were relatively simple.
Technology and Culture - Samuel C. Florman
Power, Speed, and Form is physically an extraordinary volume...chock full of the most extraordinary photos.... Yet this is not a picture book. It is a serious history of the development of American technology in the period between the year 1876...and 1939.... [W]hat is unique, and what, along with the illustrations, makes this book something of a treasure, is the inclusion of more than forty sidebars, each a full-page explication in words, numerical formulas, and splendidly clear diagrams, of the historic innovations discussed in the text.
From the Publisher
One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2007

"David P. Billington and David P. Billington, Jr., hope that their new book will increase technological literacy among college students. But this well-written and nicely illustrated volume may also reach a broader audiences. Power, Speed, and Form will introduce engineering students to eminent predecessors from whom there is still much to learn, especially about the use of numerical language. This book will also help students in other disciplines appreciate engineering approaches to problem solving."—Thomas P. Hughes, American Scientist

"The authors discuss eight transformative inventions . . . within their sociocultural context. They also examine the lives of the inventors as well as the cumulative process of invention. The superb figures . . . and many photos nicely illustrate the Billingtons' overriding themes: the importance of technological literacy and the fact that original engineering is based on simple ideas."—Library Journal

"The book is a sequel to The Innovators (1996), which covered American engineering from 1776 to 1883; the two books together explain the principal engineering ideas that helped transform the U.S. from an agrarian society in the eighteenth century to the industrial civilization it became in the twentieth century."—George Cohen, Booklist

"[A] coherent and appealing approach, introducing engineering as a historical sequence of ideas and events, part of a canon of great ideas. . . . [A]n engaging narrative that explores the work of key innovators. . . . For the Billingtons, design is the primary function of engineering, one that distinguishes it from science."—Robin Tatu, ASEE Prism

"The authors . . . discuss the development of each [innovation] in a way that is readily accessible to building engineers and non-engineers—their ultimate purpose. . . . The book, then, was meant to serve as a text for introductory engineering courses, especially those designed to help liberal arts students satisfy technical literacy requirements. Such courses can also excite engineering students by explaining how many innovations sprang from ideas that though novel were relatively simple."—Ray Bert, Civil Engineering

"By introducing the fundamental theories upon which various significant technological achievements are based, Billington Sr. . . . and Billington Jr. . . . shed light on the unseen foundations of invention. . . . A remarkable accomplishment of this book is that it presents these theories and equations in a manner that is understandable to general readers, rather than accessible only to engineers or scientists. Thus, it fills a much-needed role in helping to enhance technological literacy and understanding among the general public. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice

"Power, Speed, and Form is physically an extraordinary volume...chock full of the most extraordinary photos.... Yet this is not a picture book. It is a serious history of the development of American technology in the period between the year 1876...and 1939.... [W]hat is unique, and what, along with the illustrations, makes this book something of a treasure, is the inclusion of more than forty sidebars, each a full-page explication in words, numerical formulas, and splendidly clear diagrams, of the historic innovations discussed in the text."—Samuel C. Florman, Technology and Culture

American Scientist
David P. Billington and David P. Billington, Jr., hope that their new book will increase technological literacy among college students. But this well-written and nicely illustrated volume may also reach a broader audiences. Power, Speed, and Form will introduce engineering students to eminent predecessors from whom there is still much to learn, especially about the use of numerical language. This book will also help students in other disciplines appreciate engineering approaches to problem solving.
— Thomas P. Hughes
Booklist
The book is a sequel to The Innovators (1996), which covered American engineering from 1776 to 1883; the two books together explain the principal engineering ideas that helped transform the U.S. from an agrarian society in the eighteenth century to the industrial civilization it became in the twentieth century.
— George Cohen
ASEE Prism
[A] coherent and appealing approach, introducing engineering as a historical sequence of ideas and events, part of a canon of great ideas. . . . [A]n engaging narrative that explores the work of key innovators. . . . For the Billingtons, design is the primary function of engineering, one that distinguishes it from science.
— Robin Tatu
Civil Engineering
The authors . . . discuss the development of each [innovation] in a way that is readily accessible to building engineers and non-engineers—their ultimate purpose. . . . The book, then, was meant to serve as a text for introductory engineering courses, especially those designed to help liberal arts students satisfy technical literacy requirements. Such courses can also excite engineering students by explaining how many innovations sprang from ideas that though novel were relatively simple.
— Ray Bert
Choice
By introducing the fundamental theories upon which various significant technological achievements are based, Billington Sr. . . . and Billington Jr. . . . shed light on the unseen foundations of invention. . . . A remarkable accomplishment of this book is that it presents these theories and equations in a manner that is understandable to general readers, rather than accessible only to engineers or scientists. Thus, it fills a much-needed role in helping to enhance technological literacy and understanding among the general public. . . . Highly recommended.
Technology and Culture
Power, Speed, and Form is physically an extraordinary volume...chock full of the most extraordinary photos.... Yet this is not a picture book. It is a serious history of the development of American technology in the period between the year 1876...and 1939.... [W]hat is unique, and what, along with the illustrations, makes this book something of a treasure, is the inclusion of more than forty sidebars, each a full-page explication in words, numerical formulas, and splendidly clear diagrams, of the historic innovations discussed in the text.
— Samuel C. Florman
Library Journal
In this successful sequel to the senior author's The Innovators, which covered American engineering from 1776 to 1883, the Princeton engineering professor and his historian son examine innovations from 1876 to 1939. Engaging and readable, their technology history employs the framework of structure, machine, network, and process used in the earlier text, as well as the illustrations of key formulae, diagrammed in lay terms not requiring a calculus background. The authors discusses eight transformative inventions-the electric light and power grid, the telephone, petroleum refining, the automobile, the airplane, the radio, large steel bridges, and reinforced concrete-within their sociocultural context. They also examine the lives of the inventors, as well as the cumulative process of invention. The superb figures (illustrating key concepts like catalytic cracking) and many photos nicely illustrate the Billingtons' overriding themes: the importance of technological literacy and the fact that original engineering is based on simple ideas. Highly recommended for large public and all academic libraries.-Sara Tompson, Univ. of Southern California Libs., Los Angeles Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691102924
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 10/2/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 294
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

David P. Billington is Gordon Y. S. Wu Professor of Engineering at Princeton University. His books include "The Innovators; Robert Maillart: Designer, Builder, Artist;" and "The Tower and the Bridge" (Princeton). David P. Billington Jr. holds a Ph.D. in modern history from the University of Texas and is an independent scholar.

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Table of Contents

List of Sidebars ix
List of Figures xi
Preface xv
Acknowledgments xxi
Chapter One: The World’s Fairs of 1876 and 1939 1
Chapter Two: Edison, Westinghouse, and Electric Power 13
Chapter Three: Bell and the Telephone 35
Chapter Four: Burton, Houdry, and the Refining of Oil 57
Chapter Five: Ford, Sloan, and the Automobile 79
Chapter Six: The Wright Brothers and the Airplane 103
Chapter Seven: Radio: From Hertz to Armstrong 129
Chapter Eight: Ammann and the George Washington Bridge 155
Chapter Nine: Eastwood, Tedesko, and Reinforced Concrete 176
Chapter Ten: Streamlining: Chrysler and Douglas 199
Appendix: The Edison Dynamo and the Parallel Circuit 220
Notes 223
Index 257

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