Masterworks of Technology: The Story of Creative Engineering, Architecture, and Design
Human beings have always tried to find ways to make life easier. In ancient times, all but a privileged few could count on slow, hard, physical labour to account for the bulk of their waking hours. Yet one of the gifts of the human race is the ability to innovate, to envision and then create the technology that allows work to be done easier, faster, more thoroughly, and more consistently.
Through the centuries, engineers—our technological innovators—have strived to perfect older technologies built upon their experience and the growing power of science. This continually increasing technological sophistication has led from the simple wheel, designed to make transportation of goods and people easier, all the way to space travel-with a multitude of intervening steps. In Masterworks of Technology, E E Lewis deftly traces these steps along the path to our modern technological sophistication. Lewis' many years in the engineering field have given him a clear, authoritative perspective on the highlights of technological progress through the ages. Melding his own personal experience—from visiting the cathedral in Chartres, France, to flying aboard a Boeing 777—with vivid historical vignettes, the author skilfully demonstrates the importance of the craft tradition, scientific method, production organisation, economics, and more to the creation of modern technology. The many topics that Lewis illuminates include pyramid construction in ancient Egypt; the fascinating evolution of the wheelwright's craft; the background and training of the architect-engineers who built Europe's medieval cathedrals; the importance of patrons and venture capitalists in realising big ideas both past and present; the increasing use of visualisation as seen in Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks; Galileo's pioneering effort to bring science and engineering together; the increasing importance of basic science as the seedbed of engineering and design innovators; the challenge of attempting unprecedented feats while minimising risk, as exemplified by space flight; and so much more.
In each chapter, the author details with infectious enthusiasm his own experiences with these diverse technologies, adding a personal touch unique to his style. Whether he is discussing the distribution of weight among flying buttresses, the challenges faced by Samuel Morse in engineering the telegraph, or the Apollo program's monumental team effort, Lewis' gift for engaging, lively prose make for a fascinating exploration of science and engineering through the ages. His singular knowledge, evident in this culmination of a lifetime of work in the field, has resulted in a book that anyone who appreciates the beauty and complexity of brilliant tools, clever machines, and amazing structures will savour.
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