This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Constructing a Bridge: An Exploration of…

Constructing a Bridge: An Exploration of Engineering Culture, Design, and…

by Eda Kranakis

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations
91950,433 (4.75)None



Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

This is a book that could appeal equally to students of bridge design, civil engineering history, or the history of technology. Kranakis comes from the last of those perspectives, and uses the work of two early suspension bridge pioneers to illustrate wider ideas about how engineering design choices are affected by social context.

The first half of the book contrasts James Finley, inventor of the modern suspension bridge, with Claude-Louis-Marie-Henri Navier, whose monumental design for the Pont des Invalides drove forward engineering science but was a never-completed failure. Finley was a practical, experimental, partly self-tought engineer operating in a rural community, and his design was driven by commercial competition against truss alternatives. Navier was a bureaucrat and scientist with a love of mathematical idealism, designing a state-funded bridge which had little real reason for existence.

I was at first most impressed simply by Kranakis' attention to historical detail - these bridges and engineers are discussed elsewhere, but not with this level of careful explanation. But ultimately, I found the book's main reward to lie in how the nineteenth century divide between empiricism and abstraction remains highly relevant to modern bridge engineering.

These issues are brought into sharper focus by the book's second half, which explores the social context for American and French engineers of the period, and offers a wealth of detail on their educational systems and the institutions that they established. The French were elitist and technocratic; the Americans egalitarian and meritocratic. In many respects, this is still true today, and the difficult balance between the two can be found in many engineering arenas. Certainly the choices for modern engineering education (which perhaps focusses too heavily on the science side rather than on practical design) are still unresolved.

The book shows the weight of months of painstaking research, and I found it to be well-informed, well-argued, and very thought-provoking, ( )
  bduguid | Jan 24, 2008 |
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
First words
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0262112175, Hardcover)

If it is true, as Tocqueville suggested, that social and class systems shape technology, research, and knowledge, then the effects should be visible both at the individual level and at the level of technical institutions and local environments. That is the central issue addressed in Constructing a Bridge, a tale of two cultures that investigates how national traditions shape technological communities and their institutions and become embedded in everyday engineering practice.Eda Kranakis first examines these issues in the work of two suspension bridge designers of the early nineteenth century: the American inventor James Finley and the French engineer Claude-Louis-Marie-Henri Navier. Finley -- who was oriented toward the needs of rural, frontier communities -- designed a bridge that could be easily reproduced and constructed by carpenters and blacksmiths. Navier -- whose professional training and career reflected a tradition of monumental architecture and had linked him closely to the Parisian scientific community -- designed an elegant, costly, and technically sophisticated structure to be built in an elite district of Paris. Charting the careers of these two technologists and tracing the stories of their bridges, Kranakis reveals how local environments can shape design goals, research practices, and design-to-construction processes.Kranakis then offers a broader look at the technological communities and institutions of nineteenth-century France and America and at their ties to technological practice. She shows how conditions that led to Finley's and Navier's distinct designs also fostered different systems of technical education as well as distinct ideologies and traditions of engineering research.The result of this two-tiered, comparative approach is a reorientation of a historiographic tradition initiated by Tocqueville (and explored more recently by Eugene Ferguson, John Kasson, and others) toward a finer-grained analysis of institutional and local environments as mediators between national traditions and individual styles of technological research and design.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:59 -0400)

No library descriptions found.

Quick Links

Popular covers


Average: (4.75)
4.5 1
5 1

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 126,473,455 books! | Top bar: Always visible