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Exactly/The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers created the Modern World

A very interesting looking book

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Hopper11/05/2018 11:46:16
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I had a quick browse through the above-named book at the bookshop this afternoon and it looks very good. So have put in an order to our local library to reserve a copy.

It seems to cover precision engineering from Ancient Greece to Maudslay, Whitworth Henry Ford, Rolls Royce, Boeing, Hubble and on through guns and clocks and Jo' blocks, Seiko watches and Leica cameras and  quite a bit on space telescopes and mirrors and lenses etc.It is written in a very readable way, yet is very good on the engineering detail side. (Albeit, written by an historian, not an engineer.)

You can see a "look inside" preview here: **LINK**

Looks to me to be well worth a read.

For some reason it seems to be titled "Exactly" in some markets and "The Perfectionists" in others. I think UK market will be the latter.

Either way, it's nice to see the importance of engineering recognized. It seems to be something that gets forgotten in today's post-industrial societies.

 

 

Edited By Hopper on 11/05/2018 11:56:46

Edited By Hopper on 11/05/2018 12:00:41

Roderick Jenkins11/05/2018 12:26:01
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Thanks for the heads up. yes

Rod

Mick B112/05/2018 15:12:00
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I read the prologue and have to say I took a strong dislike to the father. My father wasn't like that with his family and I don't think I was with mine.

V8Eng12/05/2018 15:33:55
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The ISBN 0008241767 should find it on U.K. Amazon. Pre order for 31st May. Looks like an interesting book

Whilst my Father was not quite like that and I did not go to boarding school we certainly lived through many of the described 1950s London winter evenings smog and all!

Edited By V8Eng on 12/05/2018 15:38:57

Bill Phinn12/05/2018 17:10:16
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Thanks for the link, Hopper!

I'm struggling to see what's objectionable about the father; maybe we have different amounts of access to the preview depending on where we are.

I do hope the book is heavy with entertaining anecdotes of the kind the book opens with and less heavy with Winchester's personal dogma; his assigning of metals, ceramics and glass to the category of things to which the concepts of precision and accuracy can be applied and his exclusion of wood from the same category on the basis that it "swells and contracts in unpredictable ways" is hardly a very scientific piece of categorisation; metals, ceramics and glass expand and contract as well, the only difference being that the changes in these are less detectable to the unaided eye.

It's hard not to conclude that the very precision Winchester's book celebrates the pre-eminence of in our lives is something he himself has lost sight of, temporarily at least. It's probably the linguist* in him triumphing over his scientific side. I've read his book about the OED, which was hugely entertaining. He was on surer ground there, I suspect.

*Linguists can be notorious for their pedantry. I should know.

Edited By Bill Phinn on 12/05/2018 17:11:31

Roger Williams 212/05/2018 17:18:36
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Where does the " father " bit come in ?. Im confused !.

Mick B112/05/2018 18:19:09
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In the prologue the father enjoys the son's lack of knowledge about matters he's had no opportunity to learn about, and entirely ignores his wife's efforts to keep house the way she wants to. Or that's the way I read it. Not sure I can be bothered to go back and read it again to make sure...

Mick B112/05/2018 18:28:07
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...and anyway, I've long believed that "perfection is the enemy of the good", so perhaps the alternative title put me off... laugh

Hopper13/05/2018 07:23:42
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Posted by Mick B1 on 12/05/2018 18:28:07:

...and anyway, I've long believed that "perfection is the enemy of the good", so perhaps the alternative title put me off... laugh

And "good" is the enemy of excellence. laugh (As us perfectionists say. wink )

You may be interested in the blurb from Amazon that echoes your thoughts somewhat:

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 society?

Perko713/05/2018 09:53:48
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I read a book some time ago about the manufacture of steam locos in one of the major locomotive works in the UK (Swindon or Doncaster, i think it was Doncaster) and a description was given of the way in which the axles and motion were aligned using light beams. An early version of our laser car wheel alignment system i expect. Accuracy was described as being within a few thousands of an inch. Pretty good for 19th century technology cool.

pgk pgk13/05/2018 09:57:45
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Posted by Mick B1 on 12/05/2018 18:19:09:

In the prologue the father enjoys the son's lack of knowledge about matters he's had no opportunity to learn about, and entirely ignores his wife's efforts to keep house the way she wants to. Or that's the way I read it. Not sure I can be bothered to go back and read it again to make sure...

I guess this is a function of our own upbringing as to how one interprets this. I can see my own dad here... so enthusiastic about his current project or latest tech, wanting to share it and oblivious to minor mayhem caused in the process. I recall (early 60's?) one of my mother's friends bragging to her about the new fashion item - nylon tights - that she had just got and my old man genuinely interested but unthinking about social convention lifting her skirts on the town high street to see what they looked like...and then his red-faced embarrassment when he realised what he had done.

pgk

Mick B113/05/2018 10:47:01
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Posted by Hopper on 13/05/2018 07:23:42:
Posted by Mick B1 on 12/05/2018 18:28:07:

...and anyway, I've long believed that "perfection is the enemy of the good", so perhaps the alternative title put me off... laugh

And "good" is the enemy of excellence. laugh (As us perfectionists say. wink )

...

“Give them the third-best to go on with; the second-best comes too late, [and] the best never comes.” (Robert Watson-Watt)

And it should probably be 'we' perfectionists ... winklaugh

Hopper13/05/2018 11:52:06
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Posted by Mick B1 on 13/05/2018 10:47:01:

And it should probably be 'we' perfectionists ... winklaugh

I thought you were not a perfectionist? laugh

Or are you using it in the hypothetical sense of "youse perfectionists"? wink

Georgineer13/05/2018 11:58:52
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Posted by Mick B1 on 12/05/2018 18:19:09:

In the prologue the father enjoys the son's lack of knowledge about matters he's had no opportunity to learn about...

We had a training officer in the CEGB like that but worse. He would question you until he found a hole in your knowledge and then worry away at it in an attempt to make you feel small. A despicable man.

George

Bill Phinn13/05/2018 13:16:33
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And yet the father was in the habit of bringing things home from work to interest his son. He was motivated to share his knowledge and perhaps to give his son a headstart in understanding important facts about the world around him. Children like that often do have a big headstart over children whose fathers never show them a thing. My own father had many virtues, but showing you things and explaining them to you and getting you interested in anything at all was not one of them. Whenever I see teenage Youtubers doing technical demos to a standard well beyond their years, it's difficult not to conclude they've had the kind of headstart I would have welcomed but never got.

Howard Lewis13/05/2018 17:02:15
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The book about using optical alignment was Kenneth Cook's account of his career with the Great Western Railway, at Swindon. GWR methods were so precise that they scrapped at the sizes that other railways used from new.

Optical alignment was used at Doncaster, but only in the days of British Railways when Cook had been moved there as Mechanical and Electrical Engineer for Northern and Eastern regions. In that way, and using other GWR techniques, he improved the life of the V2 class middle cylinder connecting rod bearings, (which had always been a weakness on LNER locomotives).

Without Engineers, we would not have the world that we all enjoy today!

Howard

Mick B113/05/2018 18:17:24
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Posted by Hopper on 13/05/2018 11:52:06:
Posted by Mick B1 on 13/05/2018 10:47:01:

And it should probably be 'we' perfectionists ... winklaugh

I thought you were not a perfectionist? laugh

Or are you using it in the hypothetical sense of "youse perfectionists"? wink

Perfectly put... angel

Mick B113/05/2018 19:39:50
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Posted by Bill Phinn on 13/05/2018 13:16:33:

And yet the father was in the habit of bringing things home from work to interest his son.

... it's difficult not to conclude they've had the kind of headstart I would have welcomed but never got.

I understand the point, but as the son of an adult education academic and a modern languages secondary teacher, neither of whom could confidently wire a 3-pin plug, I have to say that I think if engineering's there in the kid, it will out whatever the parents do or don't do...

laugh

Howard Lewis15/05/2018 20:53:30
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My late father, in the early 1930s, converted a slaughter house into a garage. The death of his father, plus the depression, killed the business. Nevertheless, all I ever wanted to be was an Engineer.

I have just donated his Britool 7/16 hexagon drive socket set to The WaterWorks Museum, for their "Old Workshop".

Thankfully, I have had a long career in Engineering which has provided great interest, satisfaction and enjoyment, and these continue in my retirement. What I learned along the way has stood me in good stead.

Howard

ronan walsh15/05/2018 21:45:37
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I spotted this book in the local bookseller/newsagent today. Had a quick scan through it as its unusual to see engineering books in ordinary shops. Looks good, i'll pick it up and see is any good at the weekend.

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