Engineers of Dreams: Great Bridge Builders and the Spanning of America

Engineers of Dreams: Great Bridge Builders and the Spanning of America

Henry Petroski

Language: English

Pages: 479

ISBN: 0679760210

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Petroski reveals the science and engineering--not to mention the politics, egotism, and sheer magic--behind America's great bridges, particularly those constructed during the great bridge-building era starting in the 1870s and continuing through the 1930s. It is the story of the men and women who built the St. Louis, the George Washington, and the Golden Gate bridges, drawing not only on their mastery of numbers but on their gifts for persuasion and self-promotion. It is an account of triumphs and ignominious disasters (including the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which literally twisted itself apart in a high wind). And throughout this grandly engaging book, Petroski lets us see how bridges became the "symbols and souls" of our civilization, as well as testaments to their builders' vision, ingenuity, and perseverance.

"Seamlessly linked...With astonishing scope and generosity of view, Mr. Petroski places the tradition of American bridge-building in perspective."--New York Times Book Review

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as a deliberate campaign to promote his own plans for a bridge, a campaign not unlike the one Joseph B. Strauss was engaged in almost contemporaneously on the other side of the continent to promote his dream of a span across the Golden Gate. As late as 1923, Ammann appears to have been willing to work with Lindenthal, perhaps partly out of loyalty and partly out of pragmatism, for his septuagenarian mentor was still the pre-eminent bridge engineer in America, and any technical and financially

buildings, and this was followed. The first consulting architect retained by Strauss was John Eberson, an Austrian-born electrical contractor who had taught himself architecture and become a prominent theatrical-set designer. He produced a design that had archlike openings above the roadway and at the tower top, thus concealing with architectural embellishments two of the four strong horizontal structural members that Ellis and Moisseiff knew were needed to provide the proper stiffness. As the

p. 84. Chapter 7 Realize 516. one out of every five: Secretary of Transportation, p. 5. 517. “born of a dare”: NYT, Aug. 19, 1987, p. 12. 518. radically different: see Bruschi and Koglin, p. 122. 519. “restringing a pearl necklace”: NYT, Aug. 19, 1987, p. 12. 520. “a case study”: ibid. 521. “a great engineering miracle”: Buckley, p. 59. 522. “disinvesting in the American plant”: ibid. 523. “the least famous”: NYT, Nov. 30, 1991, pp. 1, 31. 524. “an entirely new color”: The New

——. 1935d. “Aerodynamics and the Civil Engineer—VIII. Using Aerodynamic Research Results in Civil Engineering Practice.” Engineering News-Record, October 31, pp. 601–7. Palladio, Andrea. 1738. The Four Books on Architecture. New York: Dover Publications, 1965. Paxton, Roland, ed. 1990. 100 Years of the Forth Bridge. London: Thomas Telford. Paxton, Roland, John Kerr, and Douglas McBeth. 1981. Our Engineering Heritage: Three Notabh Examples in the Edinburgh Area. Dean Bridge, Leith Docks, Forth

developments with respect to the bridging of the Hudson River with keenest interest. By this time, Ammann no doubt knew all about the proposals of Lindenthal and others to span the Hudson, and he realized that, for all the opportunity America presented to youth, the matter of credibility still had to be addressed, as well as confidence. As he would reflect and advise a quarter-century later, when he was actually building his dream: Get all the experience you can.… Learn from those who

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