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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 7 April 2005
If you have not yet heard of Sir Stanley Hooker, this will come as a treat. As a young (and brilliant) mathematician he joined Rolls Royce near the outbreak of WW2 - to find that the Merlin engine which powered the all-important Hurricane and Spitfire was down on power due to a supercharger design flaw that only he had spotted due to his mathematical abilities. In finding that extra power he will have earned the gratitude of a generation of pilots and by extension the gratitude of the nation whose existence depended on their ability to out-fly the invaders.
There is more... Throughout the war he continuously extended the development of the aircraft enigine superchargers that he had mastered, and became one of the first to appreciate and support Whittle in the development of the Jet Engine. Hooker was one of the key figures in the success of Rolls Royce jet engines, and went on to develop the Key ingredient in the Harrier Jump-jet, it's dedicated power plant.
And more, much more....
"Not much of an Engineer" has its dramatic personal twists, and Hooker is ruthless with what he saw as his own personal failings. In addition to his mathematical and engineering skills, he writes both fluently and with feeling.
Beg, borrow, or buy it, and read it. Highly recommended.
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on 11 October 2001
As a lover of Autobiographies I thought this book was very easy to read and also a bit of an aid to my personal studies. I have a lot of respect for this man who brought Rolls Royce out of a rut of self destruction.Anybody with an interest in aviation should enjoy this but it is an easy read. The equations in the back of the book are very easy to understand.
Enjoy...
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on 11 February 2009
As others have noted, this book is a great read about one of our unsung engineer-heroes from the 20th century.

His application of science and mathematics to solving quality and performance issues of piston and jet aero engines is a great reminder to those today (who do not apply the same rigor!).

Each of the major Rolls Royce Aero engines is covered, from Piston-Merlins through the jets: Nene, Proteus, Orpheus, Olympia and Pegasus (both Rolls and Bristol manufactured). Each chapter covers the problems faced on improving performance of each and how to integrate and sell with aircraft manufacturers (most notably the Harrier and Concorde).

There's an interesting later section on selling to the Chinese some of the Rolls product set and latterly on the RB211 engine.

But don't let the talk of engines diminish what is a great read for the non-technical as well. There's lots of views on the management styles he was part of (or created) and the cause and effect of their actions too.

Highly recommended.
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on 21 February 2005
I think I have read this book five times, each time I find something new in it. Hooker shows, time and again, that very often, a simple approach to a seemingly intractable problem can produce extraordinary results. The book, which is "unputdownable", should be required reading for all undergraduate engineering students.
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on 24 June 1999
Stanley Hooker was probably Britain's foremost engineer of the 20th Century. An outstanding mathematician, he doubled the power of the RR Merlin, designed the Pegasus in today's Harrier, and, with Sir Kenneth Keith, rescued Rolls-Royce from oblivion. This book is a highly readable account of his contribution to aviation. The son of a Sheerness docker, he writes with clarity, pace and humour. Technical topics are contained in a full appendix, the principal one being the formula he developed which enabled him to transform the Merlin and, hence, the Spitfire, by boosting the input of the one and then two superchargers.
Bill Bedford, the Harrier's original test pilot, publicly wondered if Hooker was actually Britain's greatest engineer ever. Read this book and decide for yourself.
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on 29 July 2009
An easy read, very well written, full of interesting information on technology, people and the times.
HOWEVER there are a few areas I wish he had spent more time on, such as the break with Hs, the merger period when he decided to retire and also the white-hot shambles that was the RB211. He talks a little of each, but barely skims what sound like VERY exciting moments.
A wonderful book. I will keep looking for more in the same vein!
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on 8 October 2009
I first reviewed this book for Amazon in 1999, but did so anonymously because I didn't want to say that I was related to Stanley Hooker lest it raised doubts about my objectivity. I've recently re-read the book, but haven't changed my opinion about it. Stanley Hooker was an extraordinary man, as his achievements demonstrate. He wrote this book in biro on lined pads as he struggled with cancer, a struggle which he ultimately lost, but I still think this lucid and readable book is a very fitting account of an extraordinary life.

My original review is reproduced below:

Stanley Hooker was probably Britain's foremost engineer of the 20th Century. An outstanding mathematician, he doubled the power of the RR Merlin, designed the Pegasus in today's Harrier, and, with Sir Kenneth Keith, rescued Rolls-Royce from oblivion. This book is a highly readable account of his contribution to aviation. The son of a Sheerness docker, he writes with clarity, pace and humour. Technical topics are contained in a full appendix, the principal one being the formula he developed which enabled him to transform the Merlin and, hence, the Spitfire, by boosting the input of the one and then two superchargers.

Bill Bedford, the Harrier's original test pilot, publicly wondered if Hooker was actually Britain's greatest engineer ever. Read this book and decide for yourself.
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on 10 October 2010
Stanley Hooker was not an engineer by training, hence the title of the book. In fact he was a mathematician of the highest calibre who devoted his time to the development of aircraft engines. In particular, he found a key flaw in the design of the Rolls Royce Merlin supercharger which significantly increased the power of the engine. The description of Hooker's work is excellent with a good blend of the technical and practical. The explanations are very good and will be understandable even by those without a degree in mathematics!

Hooker later worked on jet engines with Frank Whittle and Rolls Royce. Also of immense interest are Hooker's insights into the personalities of the great and the good of the time, personalities and politics. This significantly adds to the book and provides explanations of many historical decisions. Later still he worked on the RR Pegasus engine which powers the Harrier.

What comes across clearly is the contribution made by the application of mathematics to engineering design. For anyone with any interesting in aircraft, jet engines and histoy this book is an exceptionally good read.
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on 30 January 2014
I can't think of a single engineer who has had more of an impact on British aviation history and through his work British life. His work at Rolls Royce - in particular on the Merlin supercharger - helped keep Britain in the game throughout WW2. Following this work on (essentially) turbine mediated compression his involvement with jet engines was almost pre-ordained and he played a leading role bringing Rolls Royce into the jet age with the development of such famous engines as the Nene, the Pegasus and Olympus.

The book makes for fascinating reading as he describes the engineering challenges he faced and the often elegant solutions he and his team devised. This is essential reading for any engineer and anybody interested in British aviation!
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on 16 December 2010
I just HAD to buy this book because, though I can't say I knew Stanley Hooker personally, I saw him occasionally when I was an apprentice at the then Bristol Aero-Engines Ltd. A mighty man like him wouldn't have swum in the same tank as a lowly apprentice! However I worked on some of the products he mentions, such as the radial piston engines Hercules and Centaurus, and the Avon, Olympus and Orpheus jets and the Proteus turbo-prop.
Sir Stanley writes well and with humour and maintains the interest even to those who can't follow the engineering physics and mathematics (I had to polish up my rusty knowledge to follow some of his explanations)
The title of the book is from an ironic remark to the author when he was young. He was a brilliant mathematician and anyone who confuses engineers with technicians and mechanics - all excellent and necessary occupations - should read this. Sir Stanley was able, with his penetrating mathematical analyses, to increase the efficiency of the Rolls-Royce Merlin engines (as used in the Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster) by redesigning the superchargers, with the result that the engines gave more power at greater altitudes.
He did much the same with the Proteus and the jets I have mentioned.
Historians will find a good source of information about the UK engine industry (and the way in which it helped the US manufacturers) and interesting material about Sir Frank Whittle and Power Jets Ltd. Those with interest in how the things work will find some valuable explanations: I suggest Wikipedia to get you up to speed!
Physics teachers will find some valuable illustrations of how Newton's laws of motion etc. are applied to aircraft engines.
One gripe: the reproduction of many of the photographs is disappointing. Why do publishers save a dollar or two and ruin the overall appearance?
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