Remarkable Engineers

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<ul><li><p>This page intentionally left blank</p></li><li><p>Remarkable Engineers</p><p>Engineering transformed the world completely between the seventeenthand twenty-first centuries. Remarkable Engineers tells the stories of 51 ofthe key pioneers in this transformation, from the designers and builders ofthe worlds railways, bridges and aeroplanes, to the founders of the modernelectronics and communications revolutions. The focus throughout is ontheir varied life stories, and engineering and scientific detail is kept to aminimum. Engineer profiles are organized chronologically, invitingreaders with an interest in engineering to follow the path by which theseremarkable engineers utterly changed our lives.</p><p>ioan james is Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University ofOxford and has had a distinguished career as a research mathematician. Inrecent years he has become interested in the history and development ofscientific disciplines and the scientists involved. He was elected Fellow ofthe Royal Society in 1968. He is also the author of RemarkableMathematicians, Remarkable Physicists and Remarkable Biologists, allpublished by Cambridge University Press.</p></li><li><p>RemarkableEngineers</p><p>From Riquet to Shannon</p><p>Ioan JamesUniversity of Oxford</p></li><li><p>CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS</p><p>Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore,</p><p>So Paulo, Delhi, Dubai, Tokyo</p><p>Cambridge University Press</p><p>The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 8RU, UK</p><p>First published in print format</p><p>ISBN-13 978-0-521-51621-1</p><p>ISBN-13 978-0-521-73165-2</p><p>ISBN-13 978-0-511-67965-0</p><p> I. James 2010</p><p>2010</p><p>Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9780521516211</p><p>This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the </p><p>provision of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part</p><p>may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press.</p><p>Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy </p><p>of urls for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication, </p><p>and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, </p><p>accurate or appropriate.</p><p>Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York</p><p>www.cambridge.org</p><p>Paperback</p><p>eBook (EBL)</p><p>Hardback</p></li><li><p>Contents</p><p>Preface page ixPrologue xi</p><p>1 From Riquet to Watt 1Pierre-Paul Riquet (16041680) 1</p><p>Sebastien le Prestre de Vauban (16331707) 4</p><p>James Brindley (17161772) 6</p><p>John Smeaton (17241792) 9</p><p>James Watt (17361819) 12</p><p>2 From Jessop to Marc Isambard Brunel 16William Jessop (17451814) 16</p><p>Lazare Carnot (17531823) 18</p><p>Thomas Telford (17571834) 20</p><p>John Rennie (17611821) 23</p><p>Sir Marc Isambard Brunel (17691849) 27</p><p>3 From Trevithick to Sadi Carnot 33Richard Trevithick (17711833) 33</p><p>Sir George Cayley (17731857) 37</p><p>George Stephenson (17811848) 40</p><p>Charles Babbage (17911871) 44</p><p>Charles Blacker Vignoles (17931875) 50</p><p>Sadi Carnot (17961832) 54</p><p>4 From Henry to Bazalgette 57Joseph Henry (17971878) 57</p><p>John Ericsson (18031889) 62</p><p>Robert Stephenson (18031859) 64</p><p>Isambard Kingdom Brunel (18061859) 67</p><p>John Augustus Roebling (18061869) 71</p><p>Sir Joseph William Bazalgette (18191891) 74</p></li><li><p>vi Contents</p><p>5 From Eads to Bell 78James Buchanan Eads (18201887) 78</p><p>William Thomson (Lord Kelvin of Largs) (18241907) 80</p><p>Gustave Eiffel (18321923) 86</p><p>George Westinghouse (18461914) 90</p><p>Thomas Alva Edison (18471931) 92</p><p>Alexander Graham Bell (18471922) 98</p><p>6 From Braun to Hertz 103Ferdinand Braun (18501918) 103</p><p>Hertha Ayrton (18541923) 105</p><p>Sir Charles Parsons (18541931) 108</p><p>Granville Woods (18561910) 112</p><p>Nikola Tesla (18561943) 115</p><p>Heinrich Hertz (18571894) 120</p><p>7 From Diesel to Marconi 127Rudolf Diesel (18581913) 127</p><p>Elmer A Sperry (18601930) 130</p><p>Wilbur Wright (18671912) and Orville Wright (18711948) 133</p><p>Frederick Lanchester (18681946) 137</p><p>Guglielmo Marconi (18741937) 140</p><p>8 From Palchinskii to Zworykin 145Peter Akimovich Palchinskii (18751929) 145</p><p>Edith Clarke (18831959) 149</p><p>Andrei Tupolev (18881972) 152</p><p>John Logie Baird (18881946) 155</p><p>Vladimir Kosma Zworykin (18891982) 159</p><p>9 From Gabor to Shannon 163Dennis Gabor (19001979) 163</p><p>Sergei Pavlovich Korolev (19071966) 168</p><p>Sir Frank Whittle (19071996) 170</p><p>William Shockley (19101989) 173</p></li><li><p>Contents vii</p><p>Wernher von Braun (19121977) 178</p><p>Claude Shannon (19162001) 182</p><p>Epilogue 188Bibliography 191Credits 200Image credits 202</p></li><li><p>Preface</p><p>This work is intended for those who would like to read something, butnot too much, about the life stories of some of the most remarkable engi-neers born since the Renaissance. There are five or six profiles in each ofnine chapters, making 51 engineers altogether. The emphasis is mainly ontheir varied life stories, not so much on the details of their achievements.Although I knew none of them personally most of them died long beforeI was born I know something of their works. In France I have sailed alongRiquets Grand Canal de Languedoc, been impressed by the fortifications ofVauban and ascended the Eiffel tower. In England, I have seen mighty beamengines at work, and in museums. I have ridden on the footplates of steamengines, and I have frequently used Brunels Great Western Railway. In theUnited States, I have walked across Roeblings Brooklyn Bridge and haveinspected the Wrights biplane in the Smithsonian National Air and SpaceMuseum. In the Second World War, I had first-hand experience of the V-1flying bomb and the V-2 ballistic missile. In Russia, I have flown in one ofTupolevs aircraft. My house is full of electrical appliances, as is the car Idrive. I write this book on a laptop computer, the descendant of Babbagesanalytical engine, which was to be powered by steam. Nowadays we live ina world dependent on the work of generations of engineers.</p></li><li><p>Prologue</p><p>Most people know what an engineer is without being able to produce adefinition. We say that someone has engineered the solution to a problem,and the dictionary allows this by defining an engineer as someone whocontrives, designs or invents, with the same root as genius, a word whosemeaning has varied much over the years. This covers not only traditionaltypes of engineering, building bridges or railways, for example, or cars oraeroplanes, but also modern types, such as software engineering. Engineer-ing overlaps with science, on the one hand, and with technology, on theother. There are many specialities: civil (as opposed to military) engineer-ing, mechanical, electrical, medical, sanitary, computer, etc., are in com-mon use. Feibleman (1961) has attempted to distinguish between these, butthe distinctions matter little for my purposes. I give several examples ofpeople who might be classified as applied physicists, others who might beregarded as electrical technologists, but they are still engineers. Although Ihave written about some of these engineers before (James, 2004; 2009a; b),the profiles here are not the same.</p><p>The profiles that follow are arranged chronologically by date of birth,so that when read in sequence they convey in human terms something of theway in which engineering developed. In writing this book, I had in mind thereader who, like myself, is interested in engineering but is not necessarilyfamiliar with the history of the subject. To avoid being too discursive, Ihave focused in this book on certain themes. At first the emphasis is oncivil engineering, the building of fortifications, canals, bridges, tunnels andso on. Then comes the development of the steam engine and the railwayage. Electrical engineering became increasingly important, leading to thedevelopment of radio and television. The automobile dates from the earlytwentieth century, as does aviation. Finally, there is information technologyand space research. Even so, certain forms of engineering had to be left outif this book was to be of a reasonable length. Some profiles are much shorterthan others, mainly due to the lack of suitable biographical material.</p><p>Although I begin with two examples from the seventeenth century,most of my remarkable engineers date from the eighteenth, nineteenth andtwentieth. It is hard to identify engineers, however remarkable, before thetime of the Renaissance. We know the names of the architects of some ofthe outstanding buildings of the Middle Ages, but not much else. Bridges,fortifications, docks and canals were built, major drainage schemes were</p></li><li><p>xii Prologue</p><p>successfully completed, but we know little about the people who wereresponsible. Polymaths like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonar-roti attracted the attention of biographers but these were exceptional. Fromthe time of the Renaissance, more information is available, particularly forarchitects. Architecture used to be regarded as part of engineering, or viceversa, but engineering as a profession is a later development. In France, forexample, the two professions of architect and engineer, which had previ-ously been quite close, began to separate in the eighteenth century.</p><p>In pre-Revolutionary France, the centralized state controlled entryinto the profession. The Corps Royal du Genie in 1817 was responsible forfortifications while the similar Corps des Ponts et Chaussees, which wasresponsible for the maintenance of highways, included several architectsamong its members. To ensure a good supply of civil engineers, the Ecoledes Ponts et Chaussees was founded in 1747, while the Ecole de lArtillerieet du Genie in Mezie`res, founded the following year, trained military engi-neers. These rival corps were often in competition with each other in theeighteenth century, especially over the desire of engineers belonging to thePonts et Chaussees to work on canals and on the planning of docks, whichtraditionally had been the prerogative of those in the Genie. Entry to thesemilitary organizations was more or less restricted to members of the nobil-ity. After the revolution, the Ecole Polytechnique was founded, to whichentrance was not so restricted. Other countries followed suit, for example,the German Technische Hochschulen and the British polytechnics weremodelled on the Ecole Polytechnique.</p><p>Until the eighteenth century, Britain was a backward country in engi-neering, compared with, say, France or the Netherlands. The IndustrialRevolution reversed the situation. Britain led the way with the inventionof the steam engine and the construction of railways. Having been trainedon the job, in a business context, the British engineers were more empir-ical and more alert to questions of profit than were the French, while theFrench engineers attained a deeper mastery than their British counterpartsof questions having to do with the rational exposition of technical knowl-edge. Telford and Rennie learned French in order to read treatises that hadnot been translated into English. France exported expert engineers like MarcBrunel and Charles Vignoles, some of whom settled in Britain. Over a dozenBritish engineers are profiled in this book but it would be easy to find asmany more with equal claim.</p><p>In the early days of the Republic, the United States was primarily anagricultural country, but after the Civil War it began to surpass Britain in</p></li><li><p>Prologue xiii</p><p>certain industries, and enjoyed a golden age of invention. In the 40 years orso before 1914, the advance in technology slowed down in Britain while itspeeded up in America and in Germany. There was a technological lag inboth the old industries and in the new but other factors were also important(see Habakkuk (1962), for example).</p><p>In Britain, and to some extent in the United States, it was left to thebudding engineer to find his own way of entering the profession, usuallyby serving some kind of apprenticeship. This survival of the medieval guildsystem was the well-recognized means for the training of mechanical engi-neers, especially. A young man, very rarely a woman, would seek a master,who would probably test him in some way. He would sign articles, a setof rules, and for a period of years would learn a trade, being paid little ornothing. Usually, a good master might have several apprentices at a time.Traditionally, when an apprentice had served his time he stood a treat forthe others. He might then travel around, picking up work wherever hecould. Eventually, he would settle down and practise his trade in one place.Those who could afford it might pay a premium for their training, usuallyin a leading firm. However, engineers were also trained in military schools:in Britain there was the Woolwich Academy and in the United States, WestPoint, but this was less important than in France.</p><p>I have chosen subjects from a wide range of countries, namely Croatia,France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Russia, Scotland, Sweden, theUkraine and the United States. Many of them migrated from the countryof their birth to another country where they spent the major part of theircareer. Thus, Watt, Rennie and Baird moved to England from Scotland,the senior Brunel from France, Marconi from Italy, Gabor from Hungary;Roebling moved to the United States from Germany, Ericsson from Sweden,Bell from Scotland, Tesla from Croatia, Zworykin from Russia and vonBraun from Germany. Oriental countries are not represented, mainly dueto the lack of suitable biographical material. I have no doubt that there wereremarkable Chinese, Indian and Japanese engineers, for example. In the caseof China, we are fortunate to be able to consult the multi-volume History ofScience and Civilisation in China, written by Joseph Needham (19542004)and his associates, but not much is on record about the individuals whowere responsible for the advances in technology, which in many cases laterspread to the West.</p><p>Women were excluded from the professions until relatively recently:engineering was no exception, rather an extreme case. As a result, itwas difficult to find suitable subjects to profile. The problem is both the</p></li><li><p>xiv Prologue</p><p>shortage of women engineers and the lack of sufficient biographical infor-mation about those we know of. In the end, I chose the British electri-cal engineer Hertha Ayrton (18541923) and the American electrical engi-neer Edith Clarke (18831958), but there were certainly others. Mechanicalengineering does not seem an obvious vocation for a woman, and yet Vic-toria Drummond (18971980) made a successful career as a marine engi-neer, vividly described in her biography (Drummond, 1994). In nineteenth-century America, we find the sanitary engineer Ellen Swallow Richards(18421911) and the industrial production engineer Lillian Gilbreth (18781972). There were many cases where the wife contributed to the husbandswork. Even where she worked independently, as did the wives of WilliamAyrton and Lee de Forrest, there was a tendency to attribute what sheachieved to her husband. There is not the same shortage of women inventors windscreen wipers, laser printers and bullet-proof vests were all inventedby women but few of them would be described as engineers.</p><p>A special issue of the tenth volume of the journal History and Tech-nology describes the situation as it was in a number of different countries.Sa...</p></li></ul>