1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A spider-web of engineering history,
This review is from: Transitions in Engineering: G. H. Dufour and the Early 19th centure / Suspension Bridges: Guillaume Henri Dufour and the Early 19th Century Cable Suspension Bridges (Hardcover)
This is a remarkable work of engineering history, placing a pinpoint at Guillaume Henri Dufour's design of the Saint Antoine Bridge, and drawing around it a vast spider web of interesting connections.
Dufour was a Swiss general and pioneering cartographer, but also the first to build a wire-cable suspension bridge in 1823. Peters ably documents his predecessors - the catenary bridges of China and Tibet, early chain bridges by engineers like James Finley and Samuel Brown, and the Seguin brothers, who built a temporary wire cable suspension bridge shortly before Dufour. In doing so, he reveals any number of developments previously hidden in the most obscure archives, and ranges through topics such as French access to British engineering papers, catenary theory, and experiments on the strength of iron wire.
Dufour goes on to show how the wire cable bridge became common, documenting Dufour's later bridges including the interesting and unusual underspanned suspension bridges. He shows how the little known Joseph Chaley pioneered aerial spinning of the cables, and documents developments up until the fateful collapse of the Basse-Chaine Bridge in 1850, which killed 478 people.
Throughout, the book is meticulously referenced and well-illustrated with extracts from the historical documents. Peters' aim is to use this one development to explore how engineering changed from a pragmatic craftsman's world to the more modern scientific, technocratic enterprise. This is where he is perhaps slightly weak - there are any number of ideas in this book (relating to factors of safety, the tension between science and practice, and the codification of fashions into standards) which are relevant today and could have been explored further. But even without these it's an intricate, fascinating book, essential to anyone interested in the history of bridge or structural engineering.
Transitions in Engineering: G. H. Dufour and the Early 19th centure / Suspension Bridges: Guillaume Henri Dufour and the Early 19th Century Cable Suspension Bridges(1 customer review)