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Structures or Why Things Don't Fall down Paperback – 26 Sep 1991


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Frequently Bought Together

Structures or Why Things Don't Fall down + The New Science of Strong Materials: Or Why You Don't Fall Through the  Floor (Penguin Science) + Engineering: A Beginner's Guide (Beginner's Guides)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (26 Sept. 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140136282
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140136289
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 288,499 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

James Edward Gordon was born in 1913. He took a degree in naval architecture at Glasgow University and worked in wood and steel shipyards, intending to design sailing ships. On the outbreak of the Second World War he moved to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, where he worked on wooden aircraft, plastics and unorthodox materials of all kinds. He designed the sailing rescue dinghies carried at one time by most bomber aircraft. He later became head of the plastic structures sections at Farnborough and developed a method of construction in reinforced plastics which is now used for a number of purpose in aircraft and rockets.

For several frustrating years he worked in industry on the strength of glass and the growth of strong 'whisker' crystals. In 1962 he returned to government service as superintendent of an experimental branch at Waltham Abbey concerned with research and development of entirely new structural materials, most of which were based on 'whiskers'. He was Industrial Fellow Commoner at Churchill College, Cambridge, and became Professor of Materials Technology at the University of Reading, where he was later Professor Emeritus. He was awarded the British Silver Medal of the Royal Aeronautical Society for work on aircraft plastics and also the Griffith Medal of the Materials Science Club for contributions to material science. His book, Structures or Why Things Don't Fall Down, is also published in Penguin.

Professor Gordon died in 1998. In its obituary The Times wrote of him that he was 'one of the founders of materials science' and that he wrote 'two books of outstanding literary quality ... at once entertaining and informative, providing absorbing interest for both expert and student'.


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A structure has been defined as 'any assemblage of materials which is intended to sustain loads', and the study of structures is one of the traditional branches of science. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By S. Genochio on 2 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a perfect example of the most rarest of all things: a technical book that is an utter joy to read.

I have no engineering, maths or physics beyond GCSEs, and was concerned that the book would quickly go over my head. However, Gordon writes with a clarity and simplicity that makes the material accessible. He discusses the main concepts in structural engineering, and gives hundreds of examples, from plants to skeletons to boats to planes and buildings. Occasionally I got lost by the formulas or discussions of maths , but not only was that very rarely, it was also down to my own ignorance.

The real joy of this book is Gordon himself: his personality comes across wonderfully in the text, and I was often left chuckling at his remarks. I'd never expected to laugh when reading a book on engineering. I've read many novels which couldn't compare to this book, in terms of the writing skill of the author. The final chapter, on the philosophy of chapters, is outstanding.

I can't recommend this book enough, whether you're specificly looking for a book on engineering, or whether you're simply looking for your next book.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Fox on 14 July 2002
Format: Paperback
The book is a good introduction to engineering of any sort particuly civil or structural. It would be beneficial to anyone about to take A level physics and beyond. It pulls together losts of laws by famous scientists and presents it in different but interesting ways. The language is sometimes quite technical but is easy to understand with some previous knowledge in the subject and or after a few chapters of the book. an enjoyable read intersting read
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By bobby spray on 10 Mar. 2000
Format: Paperback
I am a mechanical engineer and during my undergraduate years I was crying out for a book like this. It's easy to read and anyone with even the most basic concept of structures will find it very informative. The author explains why structures are built the way they are and points to the lessons that can be learned from nature. Structures enhanced my appreciation of architecture and has even tauhgt me a few new concepts. I would think it's almost essential for any structural engineer to have a copy. A very enjoyable light read.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Telford on 30 April 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Everyone who has thoughts of becoming a civil or mechanical engineer should read this book. It explains virtually all you need to know and many things you didn't realise you needed to know. Every practicing engineer should also read it - I am now retired but read it every year just for the enjoyment.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Johani on 22 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback
I am currently doing my A-levels in maths and physics hoping to do civil engineering at University. I found this really intersting and it gave me more of an insight into civil engineering as a whole and other aspects such as material engineering. Extremely well written which is simple for anybody to read but can also teach people with a good physics knowledge something new. I would recommend this to everyone, especially future civil engineers.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By D. Sweetman on 17 July 2009
Format: Paperback
Prof Gordon's really famous work is The New Science of Strong Materials: Or Why You Don't Fall Through the Floor (Pelican). If you haven't read that, you should. But then come back and read this one, which looks at how bigger things can be put together from practical materials. It's not such an extraodinary work as "Strong Materials" but is still very well written, wise and memorable.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By jon valentine on 20 Jun. 2004
Format: Paperback
i loved this book. i am a lay reader but it gave me a good understanding of structures and is written in such and entertaining way. i would recommend this to anyone . it is a model of how the complexities of the world can be explained in a clear and enjoyable way.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mr. David Walland on 3 July 2008
Format: Paperback
This book and it's sister title were set books for my BSc in Safety and Health back in the 70s. Both have been read so many times that they are suffering to the extent of needing replacement. Prof Gordon charmed me when I saw a lecture by him about composite materials on OU, and these books approach learning so joyfully that you hardly realise it's happening. My wife, who is a Glass Artist has also read and enjoyed both, and given her allergy to mathematics, that is high praise indeed.

More textbooks should be as approachable and more teachers should be as "un-po-faced" about their subject as this author. Read it just for fun and remember: whether pussy is pulling or you're pulling, the strain on the tail's the same!
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