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The Ancient Engineers First Thus Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0345482877
ISBN-10: 0345482875
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A reasonably scholarly but nonetheless accessible history of the great engineering feats of the human race up to the Renaissance, including a great chapter on Oriental architecture, a topic often neglected by such surveys. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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"History as it should be told." -- Isaac Asimov, The New York Times Book Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Thus edition (January 3, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345482875
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345482877
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #933,398 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I have to start by telling you the truth: I read this book twenty years ago and have not seen it since. So now I can tell you this: few books in my life have stayed in my mind so brightly as this one. I love this book, and heartily recommend it to historians of all ages, students of science, and technophiles.

Now and then I'll remember the discussion of the walls around Babylon, said to be 40' high and 25' wide. Just imagine what sort of attacks they were preparing for. And I can still recall the discussion of the tactics, including chemical warfare, used by Roman ships.

One day in October, 2009, the book came to mind again, and I thought: I wonder if it still exists. I should have known! Amazon lists several editions, some quite cheap. There are 11 reviews, most enthusiastic, some with sophisticated quibbles. I second all of these reviews.

A clever teacher, in late high school or college, could build quite a course around this book. History, technology, culture, finance, and sociology intersect here. It's not history from the top (kings and such, which some say is dry), nor history from the bottom (average people, which is necessarily endless and perhaps not very revealing). It's history from the nuts-and-bolts middle--how structures were built, how materials were transported, how wars were fought. When you know this sort of foundational information, everything else becomes more real.

This book has particular resonance for education now, when we hear so much chatter about the supposed wonders of Critical Thinking. Typically, this means a bunch of kids who know nothing are supposed to have useful discussions about said nothing. Our so-called educators have a genius for doing everything backward. But let us suppose a group of people has read this book. Ah, then you could see the fireworks of genuine Critical Thinking. Real history, real facts, real technology--that is what students need to know first, then let the discussions begin.
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Format: Paperback
I thought that this would be a tad bit different since I know this author as a science fiction writer, but he did well and showed that he did his homework for this book. Being forty years old, some fallacies and wrong facts were due to be seen, but he really did a good job surveying the field of engineering from ancient times to the renaissance. He did not know that there was a whole civilization before the Sumerians in the fertile crescent and around the Black Sea, which was then a lake. There is some mention of the ancient Crete civilization that is rather puzzling and is related to the ancient Black Sea culture.

He uses an odd notation system for dates: Roman numerals for centuries, -xx for before common era, and +xx for common era. I found that I was translating the centuries to numbers to make it understandable to me.

The writing is more interesting than Sir Burton’s “The Book of the Sword”. There are quite a lot of good ideas and his explanations for the quirks of the ancient people, is really good.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
L. Spargue de Camp is better know as a great writer of classic science fiction. However, this is a good history book.
There are people in this world who choose to believe that things like how the Egyptians built the prymaids or how the Romans built roads are totally unknown to modern historians. This book shows that we do indeed know how the Egyptians built the prymaids. It shoulds that we know a lot more about ancient peoples that some would like you to believe.
This is a good book to own.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The author provides an outline of history for the engineering
profession. He explains how the first engineers were irrigators,
architects and inventors of simple machines. Memphis,Egypt
is cited as one of the initial engineering project sites.
The engineer, Imhotep is cited as an important architect
and mathematician in the building of the first pyramids. The
author explains how stones were sledded to the building site
over miles of roadways. Next, the author explains how
the Mesopotamian engineers built great temples. i.e. Marduk
The Chinese are credited with inventing cast iron.
The Greeks are extolled for inventing catapults, refinements
to temple architecture and mechanical engineering.
The Helenistic engineers are credited with the lever waterclock,
museums and advanced hulls on ships. The Roman engineers
are credited with their artful use of concrete, lead pipes
and lighthouses. Oriental engineers perfected the first pendentive dome, stone temples, the wheelbarrow and the
curved roof. European engineers improved metallurgical
processes, pirotechnia, statics, mechanics and kinetics.
The work is a good reference for any student contemplating
a science project in the engineering art. The book is
recommended highly for anyone desiring to trace the history
and evolution of the engineering sciences throughout key
periods of human history.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Have you ever wondered how they built the pyramids? Or the Colossus of Rhodes? Or those huge walls, aqueducts or temples? Sprague de Camp shows in a very entertaining and engaging manner how the ancients were as intelligent as we are today and many a lot more so. They didn't have modern technology but they did have ample curiosity, ingenuity and derring-do. A must read for anyone interested in history.
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