This is a riveting read, if you'll pardon the pun. It does a wonderful job of providing the context for each wonder, the challenges involved, and the conditions experienced. As a software engineer, it makes me realize how easy we have it in comparison to those living through the industrial revolution. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in history or engineering.
I'm aware that there was a television series of the same name. Often books from series are by-products. There is absolutely no sense of this here. It is a wonderful book in it's own right.
By Deborah Cadbury, this is an excellent book to accompany the award-winning BBC television series of the same name (for which she was producer); the BBC series was my introduction to the book.
The GREAT EASTERN - Isambard Kingdom Brunel, one of this country's heroes and most innovative designers and engineers had a dream - to build the largest metal ship and the most luxurious liner of its day. This astonishing endeavour is recreated in stunning fashion BROOKLYN BRIDGE is a truly fascinating and humbling tale of one family's struggle against fraud, bureaucracy and nature to link two sides of New York and create an iconic image. The Roeblings - John Augustus, the designer, his son, Washington, who took over construction after his father's death and Emily, his wife, who completed the project after Washington was disabled with the bends, were a truly amazing family. BELL ROCK LIGHTHOUSE - the struggles overcome by the designers and builders of this lighthouse are very cleverly and dramatically recreated. THE SEWER KING - I have always been scandalised by the lack of recognition given to Joseph Bazalgette, the brilliant engineer who built and designed much of central London's riverbank, Embankment, its entire sewer network (much of which is still in use today) and quite a few of its bridges. This would have been sufficient but he did it after battling against bureaucracy, a penny-pinching Parliament and City Council. In doing so, he freed the city of its water-born diseases and the epidemics of cholera and typhoid which had killed so many of its population in the past. The PANAMA CANAL - This huge endeavour - in scale, design and engineering firsts, defeated many attempts simple because of the geology and nature of the forces involved. Eventually, after devising methods specifically for this project, the two oceans were joined. The LINE - the Pacific Railroad, created in the face of major obstacles, e.g. mountain ranges, fierce winters, fraud and hostile Indians, freed America, joined hitherto separated communities and proved what could be achieved in the face of immense obstacle. The HOOVER DAM - driven relentlessly by Frank Crowe, designer and engineer, the work force created an engineering feat unrivalled for decades and, along the way, union/management disputes were settled (eventually), entirely new construction techniques devised and implemented and the mighty Colorado river "tamed".
In great detail, obviously well-researched, the book describes these astonishing feats of engineering by some of the most audacious, innovative and fearless engineers and builders the world has seen.
For engineers, non-engineers, designers and builders this is a great read which will make readers want to purchase this excellent series.
The series was brilliant, and I really looked forward to reading the book - and, for once, I was not disappointed! Ms. Cadbury should feel proud about her achievement. The book is very well written, and the information conveyed in such a relatively short space (only about 50 pages for each 'wonder') is rich, detailed and extremely interesting - and should prove interesting for everyone! She draws together tales from the labourers, from the supervisors, from the finaciers, and from the relatives of those involved with the, often, super-human projects to produce a truly fascinating book. I don't normally go for historical books, but this is probably one of the best exeptions to that rule. All I can say is, "thank you mum for buying it!" I would definately recommend this book to everyone...
Deborah Cadbury had a difficult task with this book. How do you take seven examples of tremendous engineering/construction feats and condense each one into 40-50 pages....and still get across to the reader the richness and complexity of each story? Well, Ms. Cadbury has managed to do it. She gives enough details so that you can understand how difficult each of these projects were. She also includes plenty of "human interest" information, so we learn about some of the engineers involved in these projects and how their obsession with work, in several cases, affected their health and even shortened their lives. The author also talks about some of the financiers behind these projects (and some unscrupulous business practices).But Ms. Cadbury doesn't limit herself to the bigwigs. She also shows us the brawn as well as the brains - the thousands and thousands of laborers who actually did the bullwork: the people who braved 100 mile per hour winds and 100 foot waves to build the Bell Rock Lighthouse; the workers who built the Brooklyn Bridge, and got "the bends" from working in pressurized caissons under New York's East River; the Chinese laborers who froze to death in 40 below zero temperatures in the Sierra Nevada mountains (or who were blown up while setting explosive charges), as the Union Pacific railroad made its way eastward from California. (The Chinese workers were considered so insignificant and dispensable that the railroad didn't even bother to keep records on how many died.) In the section on the Panama Canal, in addition to unsafe working conditions, we see another nemesis - disease - as thousands of French and, later, American workers die from Yellow Fever and Malaria, after being bitten by disease-carrying mosquitoes. (Tragically, many "educated" folks thought that only those people living a depraved life could be affected by the tropical diseases. If you were "upstanding," you were safe. So thought one of the canal company's directors - Jules Dingler. He brought the whole family over to Panama and watched in horror as his daughter, son, wife, and his daughter's fiance were all killed by Yellow Fever.) I have read an excellent book on the building of the Panama Canal ("The Path Between The Seas" by David McCullough), which, if I recall correctly was very long...perhaps 500-600 pages. I was amazed what a good job Ms. Cadbury did of getting most of the pertinent information on this topic into such a short chapter. She is really to be commended, because doing justice to each of these stories must have been very difficult. And, again, I found a really good balance in each chapter between the technical aspects of the story and "the human touch." I'm sure that this book will cause many people to want to read more on each of these topics, and Ms. Cadbury obliges with a very nice bibliography. (From my own reading, besides recommending Mr. McCullough's book on the Panama Canal I can also suggest his very good book on the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, "The Great Bridge." Regarding the Scottish lighthouses, I recently read Bella Bathurst's "The Lighthouse Stevensons," and that was excellent, as well.) By the way, for the title of this review I used part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "official dedication" speech, which he gave at the Hoover Dam on September, 30 1935. I thought the words would be appropriate for any of these great human accomplishments. Kudos to Ms. Cadbury, as well, for presenting each story in such an intelligent and interesting manner.
Really enjoyed this book. Great choice of "wonders", although I'm sure Deborah had many others to choose from. Great balance between all the different aspects of these epic projects. Between the technical aspects and the human ones. Between the fascinating personalities of the chief engineers and key figures, and the unbelievable toil and hardship of the workers. Deborah must have done a hell of a lot of research to cover all these angles! The only qualm I have is that I sometimes struggled to visualise some of the technical challenges she described, but that's hardly surprising, considering just how complex they were. Maybe some more illustrations might have helped me to understand them better, but I didn't enjoy the book any less for lack of them. Highly recommended!
I bought this book with the intention of gaining an insight into some industrial engineering and the associated innovations of the time. The book covered all the aspects i desired and gave a good idea of secondary effects associated with engineering during that period.
I never watched the TV series, so read the book with no knowledge on most of the items covered and on finishing the book felt that I had been suitably educated with all the pertinent facts.
The book covers, Brunel's Great Eastern, the Brooklyn Bridge, London Sewage System, Panama Canal, Hoover Dam, Bell Rock Lighthouse and the Union Pacific Railway. Each topic is in a nice 'bite-size' format of approx 70 pages but the author does not miss out any of the pertinent facts and you come away feeling you know about each project from before its start to its completion and all of the difficulties in between.
Quite frankly this is an excellent book and I am already looking forward to reading it again !
I am thoroughly enjoying this book. It is SO interesting and written in a way that tells you, in vivid detail, about the wonderful, brave people behind the 'Seven Wonders'. I will be buying the box set of the TV series next as I missed it when it was shown some years ago. It will maybe be better to watch it now having read all the background that Deborah Cadbury has provided the detailed background.