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















brighter evening of fireworks when the bridge opened in May 1883, and the central promenade that John Roebling had so thoughtfully designed above the traffic provided a welcome escape route from the heat and closeness of the tenements, if only for the hour or so it took to walk to Brooklyn and back, perhaps stopping midway to look out at New York Harbor. Perhaps some found the bridge or its shadows oppressive, but the great structure provided an alternative to the ferries that so many people had

Ratigan—a World War II correspondent and a writer of “stories and adventure serials”—when Ammann returned from Switzerland he reportedly persuaded Lindenthal to curtail his rival’s articles, although the impending consolidation of the journal with Engineering News may have been a less insidious factor. In any case, there was clearly a lot more than technical know-how to being a successful engineer—and to letting the world know about it. Lindenthal reportedly called the younger engineer into his

Nichols, an 1868 graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute who was chief engineer of New York’s Department of Bridges from 1904 to 1906, in which position he oversaw the redesign of the Manhattan Bridge after Lindenthal’s departure from the position of commissioner. Holton Robinson, when he was engineer in charge of construction of the Williamsburg Bridge (photo credit 6.4) Robinson left the employ of the city in 1907 to join the Glyndon Contracting Company, fabricator of the cables for

bridge types, one a cantilever and one a suspension bridge. The cantilever would have had a span greater by three hundred feet than the recently completed Forth Bridge, and the suspension bridge, with a thirty-one-hundred-foot main span, would have been almost twice as long as the Brooklyn Bridge. The commission’s rejection of a cantilever in favor of a suspension bridge for this dramatic site touched off a debate that was to last for years, and would include considerations relating to the

the general advantage of Canada, and so subsidies were granted to allow the work to begin in earnest. In 1897, E. A. Hoare, chief engineer of the bridge company, wrote to the president of the Phoenix Bridge Company in Pennsylvania and asked that any of its engineers planning to attend the annual meeting of the American Society of Civil Engineers in Quebec that June stop in to see him regarding a bridge project. Among those attending the meeting was John Sterling Deans, chief engineer of Phoenix,

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