Constructing A Bridge

Constructing A Bridge

An Exploration of Engineering Culture, Design, and Research in Nineteenth-century France and America

eBook - 1997
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MIT Press

A historical look at styles of technological research and design.

If it is true, as Tocqueville suggested, that social and class systems shapetechnology, research, and knowledge, then the effects should be visible both at the individual leveland at the level of technical institutions and local environments. That is the central issueaddressed in Constructing a Bridge, a tale of two cultures that investigates how national traditionsshape technological communities and their institutions and become embedded in everyday engineeringpractice.Eda Kranakis first examines these issues in the work of two suspension bridge designers ofthe early nineteenth century: the American inventor James Finley and the French engineerClaude-Louis-Marie-Henri Navier. Finley -- who was oriented toward the needs of rural, frontiercommunities -- designed a bridge that could be easily reproduced and constructed by carpenters andblacksmiths. Navier -- whose professional training and career reflected a tradition of monumentalarchitecture 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. Chartingthe careers of these two technologists and tracing the stories of their bridges, Kranakis revealshow local environments can shape design goals, research practices, and design-to-constructionprocesses.Kranakis then offers a broader look at the technological communities and institutions ofnineteenth-century France and America and at their ties to technological practice. She shows howconditions that led to Finley's and Navier's distinct designs also fostered different systems oftechnical education as well as distinct ideologies and traditions of engineering research.The resultof this two-tiered, comparative approach is a reorientation of a historiographic tradition initiatedby Tocqueville (and explored more recently by Eugene Ferguson, John Kasson, and others) toward afiner-grained analysis of institutional and local environments as mediators between nationaltraditions and individual styles of technological research and design.

Publisher: Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, c1997
ISBN: 9780585021324
Characteristics: 1 online resource (xi, 453 p.) : ill


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