The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World

The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World

by Simon Winchester

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Overview

The revered New York Times bestselling author traces the development of technology from the Industrial Age to the Digital Age to explore the single component crucial to advancement—precision—in a superb history that is both an homage and a warning for our future.

The rise of manufacturing could not have happened without an attention to precision. At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in eighteenth-century England, standards of measurement were established, giving way to the development of machine tools—machines that make machines. Eventually, the application of precision tools and methods resulted in the creation and mass production of items from guns and glass to mirrors, lenses, and cameras—and eventually gave way to further breakthroughs, including gene splicing, microchips, and the Hadron Collider.

Simon Winchester takes us back to origins of the Industrial Age, to England where he introduces the scientific minds that helped usher in modern production: John Wilkinson, Henry Maudslay, Joseph Bramah, Jesse Ramsden, and Joseph Whitworth. It was Thomas Jefferson who later exported their discoveries to the fledgling United States, setting the nation on its course to become a manufacturing titan. Winchester moves forward through time, to today’s cutting-edge developments occurring around the world, from America to Western Europe to Asia.

As he introduces the minds and methods that have changed the modern world, Winchester explores fundamental questions. Why is precision important? What are the different tools we use to measure it? Who has invented and perfected it? Has the pursuit of the ultra-precise in so many facets of human life blinded us to other things of equal value, such as an appreciation for the age-old traditions of craftsmanship, art, and high culture? Are we missing something that reflects the world as it is, rather than the world as we think we would wish it to be? And can the precise and the natural co-exist in society?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062652560
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/07/2019
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 19,609
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Simon Winchester is the acclaimed author of many books, including The Professor and the Madman, The Men Who United the States, The Map That Changed the World, The Man Who Loved China, A Crack in the Edge of the World, and Krakatoa, all of which were New York Times bestsellers and appeared on numerous best and notable lists. In 2006, Winchester was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Her Majesty the Queen. He resides in western Massachusetts.

Hometown:

New York; Massachusetts; Scotland

Date of Birth:

September 28, 1944

Place of Birth:

London, England

Education:

M.A., St. Catherine¿s College, Oxford, 1966

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xi

Prologue 1

Chapter 1 Stars, Seconds, Cylinders, and Steam 23

Chapter 2 Extremely Flat and Incredibly Close 53

Chapter 3 A Gun in Every Home, a Clock in Every Cabin 81

Chapter 4 On the Verge of a More Perfect World 107

Chapter 5 The Irresistible Lure of the Highway 129

Chapter 6 Precision and Peril, Six Miles High 173

Chapter 7 Through a Glass, Distinctly 215

Chapter 8 Where Am I, and What is the Time? 255

Chapter 9 Squeezing Beyond Boundaries 275

Chapter 10 On the Necessity for Equipoise 307

Afterword: The Measure of All Things 331

Acknowledgments 357

A Glossary of Possibly Unfamiliar Terms 361

Bibliography 369

Index 375

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