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Engineers Of Dreams: Great Bridge Builders and the Spanning of America Hardcover – October 3, 1995


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 479 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (October 3, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679439390
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679439394
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 7 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #832,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Henry Petroski's lyrical history of bridge builders in America is organized around five engineers: James Eads (inventor of the diving bell, which bridged Mississippi at St. Louis); Theodore Cooper (railroad bridge engineer and designer of the ill-fated Quebec Bridge); Gustav Lindenthal (Hell Gate Bridge, New York); Othmar Ammann (George Washington and Verrazano-Narrow bridges); and David Steinman (Mackinac bridge). Petroski's opening and closing chapters, "Imagine" and "Realize," remind us how a bridge starts out as a dream of engineering, but ends as a reality of compromise and maintenance. Edward Tenner says that "The profound contribution of Engineers of Dreams is to remind us that communication across generations may be the most important bridge of all." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Focusing on five engineers and their creations, Petroski looks at the great bridge-building era that spanned from the 1870s to the 1930s.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

More About the Author

Henry Petroski is the Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and a professor of history at Duke University. The author of more than a dozen previous books, he lives in Durham, North Carolina, and Arrowsic, Maine.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 18, 1997
Format: Paperback
Henry Petroski's "Engineers of Dreams" appears at first glance to be nothing more than the biographies of a number of engineers who were largely responsible for the design and building of some great North American bridges. The book is this, but so much more as well. Beginning with the first chapter, "Imagine," Petroski provides a context of what bridges mean -- all bridges everywhere -- both metal and metaphorical. He makes us aware of the gaps that would exist, in our cities and our lives, without bridges.

As our experience of bridges is largely that of the "modern," i.e., bridges of iron, steel, and concrete, he chooses to concentrate on the period when many great modern bridges were first built (largely 1880 to 1940). According to Petroski, it was during this period that bridge building really evolved into a modern engineering discipline, and that the drive to build bridges (with the rise of first the railroads and later of automobiles) really took off. The modern political landscape that funded large public projects was evolving as well. Successful bridge builders had to be aware of and involved in all of these aspects if they were to have any hope of getting their "dream" bridges off the ground.

Each of the central chapters of the book takes as its framework the life and work of one engineer. But rather than a dry recounting of names, dates, and places, Petroski shows us the several facets of each engineer's personality, the individualism and ambition that led them to dream of building the longest and biggest bridges in the world.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Rick Hunter on December 13, 1998
Format: Paperback
I am a great fan of Henry Petroski, engineering professor and author of such minor classics as The Pencil and The Evolution of Useful Things. Perhaps it is because of these high expectations that I was so disappointed by Engineer of Dreams: Great Bridge Builders and the Spanning of America. In the end, Petroski seems much better at writing about engineering artifacts - pencils, paper clips, or, in this book, bridges - than the makers of those artifacts. Much of Petroski's "biography" here seemed nothing less than mere formula: you could almost see him filling in his computer template for "name, date and place of birth, school, mentor, etc." each time a new engineer was introduced. Further, he did not even attempt to vary the template from person to person, so that the repetitive style becomes unmistakable. This book is worth reading insofar as it provides a history of the bridges themselves, and the limits of engineering technique and imagination.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Howard S. Shubs on June 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
Engineers of Dreams is a book I've read several times because it involves me in the history behind some of engineerings greatest triumphs... and failures. The story of great engineers with various combinations of vision and practicality, as well as perseverence in all cases, makes for a kind of drama. In some cases, we know how the story ended, with a great bridge we can see. In other cases, the story ends with a wreck and bodies. From the story of the San Francisco Bay Bridge to the story of the first Quebec Bridge, this book itself spans a range of ability and satisfaction that is a joy to perceive.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By sailaway@mail.zoomnet.net on September 7, 1997
Format: Hardcover
There are very few books which deal with the detail of what it took to build some of the most useful bridges that , even though they were built almost a hundred years ago, are still used and appreciated by millions of people today. I heartily recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the subject and am not surprised, but disappointed that the book is not currently available by the publisher.I was going to purchase several copies as gifts to fellow engineers. I look forward to the second edition
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