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The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers…
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The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World (original 2018; edition 2019)

by Simon Winchester (Author)

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8441925,915 (3.97)33
History. Technology. Nonfiction. HTML:

The revered New York Times bestselling author traces the development of technology from the Industrial Age to the Digital Age to explore the single component crucial to advancementâ??precisionâ??in a superb history that is both an homage and a warning for our future.

The rise of manufacturing could not have happened without an attention to precision. At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in eighteenth-century England, standards of measurement were established, giving way to the development of machine toolsâ??machines that make machines. Eventually, the application of precision tools and methods resulted in the creation and mass production of items from guns and glass to mirrors, lenses, and camerasâ??and eventually gave way to further breakthroughs, including gene splicing, microchips, and the Hadron Collider.

Simon Winchester takes us back to origins of the Industrial Age, to England where he introduces the scientific minds that helped usher in modern production: John Wilkinson, Henry Maudslay, Joseph Bramah, Jesse Ramsden, and Joseph Whitworth. It was Thomas Jefferson who later exported their discoveries to the fledgling United States, setting the nation on its course to become a manufacturing titan. Winchester moves forward through time, to today's cutting-edge developments occurring around the world, from America to Western Europe to Asia.

As he introduces the minds and methods that have changed the modern world, Winchester explores fundamental questions. Why is precision important? What are the different tools we use to measure it? Who has invented and perfected it? Has the pursuit of the ultra-precise in so many facets of human life blinded us to other things of equal value, such as an appreciation for the age-old traditions of craftsmanship, art, and high culture? Are we missing something that reflects the world as it is, rather than the world as we think we would wish it to be? And can the precise and the natural co-exist in s… (more)

Member:briangreiner
Title:The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World
Authors:Simon Winchester (Author)
Info:Harper Perennial (2019), Edition: Reprint, 416 pages
Collections:Your library
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The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World by Simon Winchester (Author & Narrator) (2018)

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» See also 33 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
This is the story of precision engineering from precisions of .1 to 0.000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 01, or early cannons and steam engines through guns and automobiles, modern jet airplanes, then ultimately to modern microprocessors and the tools scientists are using to investigate the universe at infinite and infinitesimal scales.

I don’t think this book is perfect, but it’s pretty well written and provides a cohesive narrative of how we, as humans, have sought and achieved more and more ridiculous levels of replicable precision and how even small imperfections can cause catastrophic damage with the tolerance high performance products are designed for. It’s not at the top of my list, but it’s a pretty good read and you’ll learn a little. ( )
  jdm9970 | Jan 26, 2023 |
A fun book for tech-nerds like me! ( )
  steve02476 | Jan 3, 2023 |
Contemplating the start of this book, my first thought is to wonder how I managed to avoid reading anything by the author until this relatively late date in time. As for the worth of this particular book, Winchester is at his best giving the reader the human side of the great technologists at the start of the Precision Revolution (particularly if they're British); I know that I derived a great deal of enjoyment from the assorted stories. However, the book does tend to attenuate out after Winchester tells the tale of Frank Whittle, main father of the jet engine, and other folks' nit-picking in other venues does temper my enjoyment. ( )
  Shrike58 | Sep 14, 2022 |
This is a rather short book the covers the history of precision, from the tolerances in tenths of an inch for the first steam engines, to the atomic for microprocessors. It's a very enjoyable book to listen to and be inspired by the engineers that came before us, and how every level of precision to achieve a task inspired a need for more precision. Once you have better tools, you want to make better things which need even better tools. I wish the book had gone into even more detail at times, and clearly the author has a preference for mechanical engineering over other forms of engineering, but I'd recommend this book to any aspiring engineer. ( )
  driscoll42 | Feb 28, 2022 |
An elegant, exuberant, well researched book about a topic I would never have thought I would find fascinating. The development of the topic from chapter to chapter is logical and always surprising, and the concluding chapter on the desirable persistence of imperfection was unusually good for such conclusions. The afterword on measurement, while certainly informative, struck me as unnecessary. ( )
  dmturner | Jun 29, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
“The Perfectionists” succeeds resoundingly in making us think more deeply about the everyday objects we take for granted. It challenges us to reflect on our progress as humans and what has made it possible. It is interesting, informative, exciting and emotional, and for anyone with even some curiosity about what makes the machines of our world work as well as they do, it’s a real treat.
 
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Epigraph
These brief passages from works by the writer Lewis Mumford (1895-1990) might usefully be borne in mind while reading the pages that follow.

The cycle of the machine is now coming to an end. Man has learned much in the hard discipline and the shrewd, unflinching grasp of practical possibilities that the machine has provided in the last three centuries: but we can no more continue to live in the world of the machine than we could live successfully on the barren surface of the moon.

- THE CULTURE OF CITIES (1938)

We must give as much weight to the arousal of the emotions and to the expression of moral and esthetic values as we now give to science, to invention, to practical organization. One without the other is impotent.

- VALUES FOR SURVIVAL (1946)

Forget the damned motor car and build the cities for lovers and friends.

- MY WORKS AND DAYS (1979)
Dedication
For Setsuko

And in loving memory of my father,

Bernard Austin William Winchester, 1921-2011,

a most meticulous man
First words
PROLOGUE

The aim of science is not to open the door to infinite wisdom, but to set a limit to infinite error.

- Bertolt Brecht, LIFE OF GALILEO (1939)

We were just about to sit down to dinner when my father, a conspiratorial twinkle in his eye, said that he had something to show me.
CHAPTER 1: STARS, SECONDS, CYLINDERS, AND STEAM

It is the mark of an instructed mind to rest assured with that degree of precision that the nature of the subject admits, and not to seek exactness when only an approximation of the truth is possible.

- Aristotle (384-322 BC), NICOMACHEAN ETHICS

The man who by the common consent of the engineering fraternity is regarded as the father of true precision was an eighteenth-century Englishman named John Wilkinson, who was denounced sardonically as lovably mad, and especially so because of his passion for and obsession with metallic iron.
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Published in North America as The perfectionists; published in the UK and the Commonwealth as Exactly.
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History. Technology. Nonfiction. HTML:

The revered New York Times bestselling author traces the development of technology from the Industrial Age to the Digital Age to explore the single component crucial to advancementâ??precisionâ??in a superb history that is both an homage and a warning for our future.

The rise of manufacturing could not have happened without an attention to precision. At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in eighteenth-century England, standards of measurement were established, giving way to the development of machine toolsâ??machines that make machines. Eventually, the application of precision tools and methods resulted in the creation and mass production of items from guns and glass to mirrors, lenses, and camerasâ??and eventually gave way to further breakthroughs, including gene splicing, microchips, and the Hadron Collider.

Simon Winchester takes us back to origins of the Industrial Age, to England where he introduces the scientific minds that helped usher in modern production: John Wilkinson, Henry Maudslay, Joseph Bramah, Jesse Ramsden, and Joseph Whitworth. It was Thomas Jefferson who later exported their discoveries to the fledgling United States, setting the nation on its course to become a manufacturing titan. Winchester moves forward through time, to today's cutting-edge developments occurring around the world, from America to Western Europe to Asia.

As he introduces the minds and methods that have changed the modern world, Winchester explores fundamental questions. Why is precision important? What are the different tools we use to measure it? Who has invented and perfected it? Has the pursuit of the ultra-precise in so many facets of human life blinded us to other things of equal value, such as an appreciation for the age-old traditions of craftsmanship, art, and high culture? Are we missing something that reflects the world as it is, rather than the world as we think we would wish it to be? And can the precise and the natural co-exist in s

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