The Innovators, Trade: The Engineering Pioneers who Transformed America / Edition 1

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A richly illustrated introduction to the engineering triumphs that made America modern

Praise for The Tower and the Bridge

"Fascinating and informative. . . . [S]hould be required reading for architects, engineers, and anyone who is interested in the special role of structural art in our technological society." — Myron Goldsmith Coeditor (with David Billington) Technique and Aesthetics in the Design of Tall Buildings

"David Billington brings the special insight of an engineer to the study of history. The result is a provocative analysis . . . bound to excite and instruct a wide variety of readers, from the casual buff to the professional scholar. The book is a delight to read." — Merritt Roe Smith Editor, Military Enterprise and Technological Change

They built the future. Their ingenuity, their vision, their genius propelled a young nation toward the twentieth century, and paved the way for America's emergence as the world's leading industrial power. The Innovators tells the impressive story of the engineering pioneers whose designs revolutionized commerce, industry, and world history.

Enter the workshops of America's early engineering geniuses and discover how they came up with their ideas and applied them to the marketplace. David Billington, acclaimed author of The Tower and the Bridge, reveals the strokes of brilliance behind such landmark developments as the steamboat, electric power, and the rise of the iron and steel industry. He explains each major innovation through the story of the remarkable new engineering formulas that made it possible, showing that one key to engineering progress is the discovery of fundamental relationships in the physical world. He also explores the political and social conditions that allowed these brilliant individuals to implement their ideas, and the sweeping changes that followed in their wake.

Who were the innovators? Some are legendary: Robert Fulton, inventor of the steamboat; Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph; and Thomas Edison, inventor of the incandescent lightbulb. Others are not as well known, however, and readers will be introduced to many whose contributions, if not their names, have stood the test of time: people like J. Edgar Thompson, who built the Pennsylvania Railroad; and Thomas Telford, who revolutionized large-scale bridge building and design.

In the age of microchips and space probes, The Innovators brings insight and perspective to America's engineering history.

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Editorial Reviews

Myron Goldsmith
Fascinating and informative...should be required reading for architects, engineers, and anyone who is interested in the special role of structural art in our technological society.
Merritt Roe Smith
David Billington brings the special insight of an engineer to the study of history. The result is a provocative analysis...bound to excite and instruct a wide variety of readers, from the casual buff to the professional scholar. The book is a delight to read.
A technically oriented chronicle of the history of engineering in the US, with boxes on basic math and symbolic expression for understanding engineering, and exercises based on the information in each chapter. Begins with the late 18th-century industrial revolution and covers the first 100 years of major advances in technology, discussing economic and social conditions and ethical implications. Includes b&w photos and illustrations. For beginning engineering students. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471140269
  • Publisher: Turner Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 4/26/1996
  • Series: Wiley Popular Science Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 0.69 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 6.14 (d)

Meet the Author

DAVID P. BILLINGTON, Professor of Civil Engineering at Princeton University, is the author of The Tower and the Bridge and Robert Maillart's Bridges: The Art of Engineering, winner of the 1979 Dexter Prize as the outstanding book on the history of technology.

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Table of Contents


Modern Engineering and the Transformation of America.

Watt, Telford, and the British Beginnings.

Fulton's Steamboat and the Mississippi.

Lowell and the American Industrial Revolution.

Francis and the Industrial Power Network.


The Stephensons, Thomson, and the Eastern Railroads.

Henry Morse, and the Telegraph.


Louis versus Chicago and the Continental Railroads.

Carnegie and the Climax of Steel.

Edison and the Network for Light.

The Centennial Revolutions, 1876-1883.

Notes and References.



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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2001

    Excellent Book - Must Read for the Scientific Laymen

    As a student of Professor Billington, and reader of this text while it was still a manuscript, I have to say this is an excellent portrayal of the history of technology, engineering, and society. Most people are not aware of the political and social pressures surrounding technological evolution, but Professor Billington captures it well. Though the calculation based portions of the text might be too simplistic for the graduate student in engineering, it is simple enough for individuals without intensive mathematical backgrounds to understand the scientific concepts surrounding designs and creations. This is an inspiring book that would lead any reader to explore more about the history of innovation.

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