Engineering Invention

Author: Frederick Dalzell
Publisher: MIT Press
ISBN: 9780262258128
Release Date: 2009-09-25
Genre: Biography & Autobiography

Over the course of a little less than twenty years, inventor Frank J. Sprague (1857-1934) achieved an astonishing series of technological breakthroughs--from pioneering work in self-governing motors to developing the first full-scale operational electric railway system--all while commercializing his inventions and promoting them (and himself as their inventor) to financial backers and the public. In Engineering Invention, Frederick Dalzell tells Sprague's story, setting it against the backdrop of one of the most dynamic periods in the history of technology. In a burst of innovation during these years, Sprague and his contemporaries--Thomas Edison, Nicolas Tesla, Elmer Sperry, George Westinghouse, and others--transformed the technologies of electricity and reshaped modern life. After working briefly for Edison, Sprague started the Sprague Electric Railway and Motor Company; designed and built an electric railroad system for Richmond, Virginia; sold his company to Edison and went into the field of electric elevators; almost accidentally discovered a multiple-control system that could equip electric train systems for mass transit; started a third company to commercialize this; then sold this company to Edison and retired (temporarily). Throughout his career, Dalzell tells us, Sprague framed technology as invention, cast himself as hero, and staged his technologies as dramas. He toiled against the odds, scraped together resources to found companies, bet those companies on technical feats--and pulled it off, multiple times. The idea of the "heroic inventor" is not, of course, the only way to frame the history of technology. Nevertheless, as Dalzell shows, Sprague, Edison, and others crafted the role consciously and actively, using it to generate vital impetus behind the process of innovation.

Frank Julian Sprague

Author: William D. Middleton
Publisher: Indiana University Press
ISBN: 9780253023599
Release Date: 2009-09-25
Genre: Biography & Autobiography

Frank Julian Sprague invented a system for distributing electricity to streetcars from overhead wires. Within a year, electric streetcars had begun to replace horsecars, sparking a revolution in urban transportation. Sprague (1857–1934) was an American naval officer turned inventor who worked briefly for Thomas Edison before striking out on his own. Sprague contributed to the development of the electric motor, electric railways, and electric elevators. His innovations would help transform the urban space of the 20th century, enabling cities to grow larger and skyscrapers taller. The Middletons’ generously illustrated biography is an engrossing study of the life and times of a maverick innovator.

The Race Underground

Author: Doug Most
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 9781466842007
Release Date: 2014-02-04
Genre: Transportation

In the late nineteenth century, as cities like Boston and New York grew more congested, the streets became clogged with plodding, horse-drawn carts. When the great blizzard of 1888 crippled the entire northeast, a solution had to be found. Two brothers from one of the nation's great families-Henry Melville Whitney of Boston and William Collins Whitney of New York-pursued the dream of his city digging America's first subway, and the great race was on. The competition between Boston and New York played out in an era not unlike our own, one of economic upheaval, life-changing innovations, class warfare, bitter political tensions, and the question of America's place in the world.The Race Underground is peopled with the famous, like Boss Tweed, Grover Cleveland and Thomas Edison, and the not-so-famous, from brilliant engineers to the countless "sandhogs" who shoveled, hoisted and blasted their way into the earth's crust, sometimes losing their lives in the construction of the tunnels. Doug Most chronicles the science of the subway, looks at the centuries of fears people overcame about traveling underground and tells a story as exciting as any ever ripped from the pages of U.S. history. The Race Underground is a great American saga of two rival American cities, their rich, powerful and sometimes corrupt interests, and an invention that changed the lives of millions.

Tesla

Author: W. Bernard Carlson
Publisher: Princeton University Press
ISBN: 9781400846559
Release Date: 2013-05-07
Genre: Biography & Autobiography

Nikola Tesla was a major contributor to the electrical revolution that transformed daily life at the turn of the twentieth century. His inventions, patents, and theoretical work formed the basis of modern AC electricity, and contributed to the development of radio and television. Like his competitor Thomas Edison, Tesla was one of America's first celebrity scientists, enjoying the company of New York high society and dazzling the likes of Mark Twain with his electrical demonstrations. An astute self-promoter and gifted showman, he cultivated a public image of the eccentric genius. Even at the end of his life when he was living in poverty, Tesla still attracted reporters to his annual birthday interview, regaling them with claims that he had invented a particle-beam weapon capable of bringing down enemy aircraft. Plenty of biographies glamorize Tesla and his eccentricities, but until now none has carefully examined what, how, and why he invented. In this groundbreaking book, W. Bernard Carlson demystifies the legendary inventor, placing him within the cultural and technological context of his time, and focusing on his inventions themselves as well as the creation and maintenance of his celebrity. Drawing on original documents from Tesla's private and public life, Carlson shows how he was an "idealist" inventor who sought the perfect experimental realization of a great idea or principle, and who skillfully sold his inventions to the public through mythmaking and illusion. This major biography sheds new light on Tesla's visionary approach to invention and the business strategies behind his most important technological breakthroughs.

William Van Alen Fred T Ley and the Chrysler Building

Author: George C. Kingston
Publisher: McFarland
ISBN: 9781476668475
Release Date: 2017-05-09
Genre: Art

The Chrysler Building was the result of a remarkable collaboration between William Van Alen, a dreamer whose designs challenged orthodox architecture, and Fred T. Ley, a practical builder who turned dreams into reality. Together they realized Walter P. Chrysler's vision of an iconic structure that would (for 11 months) be the tallest building in the world. Alen is recognized as one of the most innovative architects of the 20th century. Ley rose from rod man on a survey team to head one of the largest construction companies in the world. Both men participated in the architectural revolution brought about by steel frame, curtain wall construction. This book chronicles how they designed and constructed the Chrysler Building and how the experience affected the rest of their lives.

Innovation as a Social Process

Author: W. Bernard Carlson
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 0521533120
Release Date: 2003-02-13
Genre: Biography & Autobiography

Elihu Thomson was a major American inventor of electric light and power systems. A contemporary of Thomas Edison, Thomson performed the engineering and design work necessary to make electric lighting a common product. From the 1880s to the 1930s, Thomson was employed by the General Electric Company and its predecessors. Working within the corporation, Thomson reveals how successful inventions are based on explicit links among technological artifacts, marketing strategy, and the business organization needed for manufacturing and marketing.

Engineers

Author: DK
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 9781465406828
Release Date: 2012-04-16
Genre: History

Engineers have always had a huge influence on the way we live and how our world looks. They create lasting solutions to the biggest challenges, and construct iconic and incredible buildings that have literally stood the test of time. Engineers tells their story, from the men who built the Great Pyramid in Egypt to the pioneers of space travel. Often many different minds worked together or built on the work of previous generations to achieve a working version of a great idea: Engineers explores this progression of ideas, from initial concept to prototype and finished design. The great achievements of engineers go hand in hand with the world's greatest structures, such as aqueducts, monuments, bridges, and dams. These works are shown in detail and highlighted with beautiful illustrations, photographs, and technical drawings.

Networks of Power

Author: Thomas Parke Hughes
Publisher: JHU Press
ISBN: 0801846145
Release Date: 1993-03-01
Genre: Science

Awarded the Dexter Prize by the Society for the History of Technology, this book offers a comparative history of the evolution of modern electric power systems. It described large-scale technological change and demonstrates that technology cannot be understood unless placed in a cultural context.