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Frank Whittle: Invention of the Jet (Revolutions in Science) Paperback – 4 Aug 2005

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Icon Books Ltd; New edition edition (4 Aug. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1840466626
  • ISBN-13: 978-1840466621
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 1.5 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,327,385 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"All students of the jet story should have this important book." -- Navigator

"Provides a different, and refreshingly balanced historical perspective … Fascinating." -- Flight International

"Read it to learn what really happened" -- Guardian

Inside This Book

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First Sentence
Early in 1940, Arthur Tedder, a Royal Air Force officer, was taken to see the top-secret Whittle jet engine project. Read the first page
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 20 April 2004
Format: Hardcover
At last someone has got past the usual cliches about the invention of the jet engine. This convincing account shows how shaky the jet programme really was during the war. I was also intrigued to see how persistently Whittle seemed to have 'bitten the hand that fed him' and brought about much of his own misfortune.
The author has a good clear style and puts across technical issues with unusual ability. My only criticism is that this is quite a short book on a fascinating topic. I wish it had been longer.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on 16 Dec. 2010
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book at the same time as Not Much of an Engineer by Sir Stanley Hooker. Each gives some account of the early development of the jet engine in England. I regard my purchase of this small volume as something of a waste of money. It is written in a rather dry manner and seems to be an attempt at myth-busting. Perhaps there are some myths, but I recommend the other book as being far more interesting and written by one who was himself something of a genius and knew Whittle personally, with a sound grasp of the politics behind the development of the jet engine.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ole Bjrsvik on 13 Feb. 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The back of this book gives an impression that it is about the development of the jet engine. Regrettable, with the exeption of some photos, and some interspersed minor stuff, it is mostly about Frank Whittle and the bureaucratic "battle" - that is probably more famous than the development of the jet engine itself. The book gives some very good reasons that it was decided to do it in other ways than what Frank Whittle wanted, with regards to development and production of the engine. And the book has a role to play in this regard. But as a book of the development of the engine itself it is disappointing. Due to the fame of this bureaucratic 'battle' a really good book about the technical challenges will probably never be written. But the book is well enough written.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
An "administrative" history 12 July 2008
By Charles Hall - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a fascinating and well written book, however it is not about the history of the jet engine. It is primarily concerned with identifying which corporate and government interests were involved and how valid their claims to the invention were. While interesting, I was hoping to learn more about the invention of the jet engine from a technical point of view!

There's a nice chapter at the end which sheds a little new light on the Comet disaster, and another chapter describing the lineage of the present day Concorde and Rolls Royce fanjet engines back to the immediate post-war planning by Brabazon. There are also bits of interesting trivia about the ultimate fate of the German jet designers.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Dispelling the Whittle myths 2 May 2006
By Peter Louw - Published on
Format: Paperback
Those readers who have believed that Frank Whittle invented the jet engine may be in for a surprise. Andrew Nahum's incisive book, Frank Whittle - Invention of the Jet, aims to dispel the myths surrounding this topic and Whittle's role in it.

As with so many important inventions, the development of the jet engine was to a large extent driven by the necessities of war. Particularly the British, Germans and Americans worked feverishly to produce a war-winning jet fighter during the Second World War, but the Germans won this particular arms race by being the first to get effective and combat-ready jet aeroplanes in the air, though it came too late to influence the eventual outcome of the war.

Britain's inability to beat the Germans in this respect, and its subsequent failure to lead the way in the postwar jet aircraft industry despite Whittle's pioneering work, have led many, including Whittle himself, to criticise those in authority in the wartime years for lack of government support and for failing to appreciate the work done by Whittle's Power Jets company, which was forcibly nationalised by the wartime government in 1944. It is this apparent failure of appreciation, feeding on the age-old stereotype of the misunderstood genius battling against reactionary conservatives still imprisoned by dated paradigms, from which grew the various misconceptions surrounding Whittle's role which Nahum seeks to dispel.

Andrew Nahum is principal curator of transport technologies at the Science Museum in London and a visiting professor in vehicle design at the Royal College of Art. He is also the author of i.a. Flying Machines, one of the DK Eyewitness Guides.

Nahum makes a convincing case for his main point that, in fact, the then British government was not at all indifferent to Whittle's foresight and energy and supported him and his colleagues as far as reasonably possible in a critical time when the needs of a conventional propeller-driven air force under intense attack from Germany had to be balanced with Whittle's demands for desperately needed funds to finance long-term and still experimental weapons such as the jet.

The book includes chapters on Whittle's early jet ideas, wartime development and the difficult problems with the Whittle W.2 jet design, the rise and fall of Whittle's Power Jets company, jet developments in the US, and the first jet airliner (the Comet) and why it failed. In a fascinating endnotes section Nahum discusses jet development in Germany and if the jet would have been developed without Whittle. His answers to this question are particularly illuminating, for instance when quoting Sir Harry Ricardo who said, "... we are too fond ... of crediting a few particular individuals with a monopoly of inventive genius ... Most intelligent people come to much the same conclusion, at much the same time."

Though this book aims to be a necessary correction to deeply-held perceptions and misconceptions it recognises Whittle's important contributions. Nahum credits Whittle for giving Britain an early launch into the turbine industry and discusses eventual developments such as the supersonic Concorde achievement as partly resulting from Whittle's pioneering work.

This concise little book, only 177 pages, is not a biography and we do not learn much about Whittle the man. Being a layman I would have liked more diagrams than the three provided, and the book would also have benefited from a table clearly illustrating the various achievements together with dates, so as to provide a historical overview and draw the welter of information together. But then more illustrations would have increased the very reasonable price of this book.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Disappointing 1 Jan. 2008
By Ole Bjrsvik - Published on
Format: Paperback
Higly disappointing. Hardly any new information, almost none insight or analysis, and it gives close to none of technical insight or technical history. As usual the book is focused in the buracrautic battle, that always gets the focus as soon as Frank Whittle's name is mentioned. - So much has been written in defence of Frank Whittle one way or another it starts to get embarassing. - Perhaps he really was so unproductive as someone obviously thought..
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Birth of The Jet Turbine 16 Dec. 2012
By Mark J. Motley - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Einsteins qoute about Genius being 10 percent inspiration & 90 percent perspiration fits this story so well. Support and Funding for the Jet Turbine flowed like the tide, as time slipped by during World War 2. Well written with a full cast of players from history. Thanks
Worst book ever 5 Jan. 2015
By Robert Thomas - Published on
Verified Purchase
Terrible book. All politics and no info on technical development of the jet engine.
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