Engineers: From Great Pyramids to Pioneers of Space Travel edited by Adam Hart Davis is an excellent compendium on historic engineering feats of the Egyptians, Romans, Chinese, Ancient Persians, and others. The production describes the workings of engineering feats of antiquity and relates them to the modern era.
For instance, the qanat provided an elemental water management system which is still in existence today. The Persians built qanats due to the arid nature of the land and the need to move water great distances. Once a qanat is built, it can exist for a long time, if maintained continuously. These applications could be used today in places like Africa. In addition, there are possibilities for combining qanat applications with solar energy and desalination plants to bring fresh water to arid areas.
The book explains how Guo Shujing designed a water system to move water in the Shenshan Mountains through irrigation canals and a man-made channel. Guo utilized the Baifu spring in the Shenshan Mountain. He designed a 30 km channel to transport the water nearly 20 miles to Dadu. He proposed connecting the water supply across river basins.
Next, he constructed new canals with sluice gates to manage high water levels. A sluice gate is a metallic plate that slides in grooves into the sides of a channel. Sluice gates are employed to control the water levels and flow rates in rivers and canals. The application can help manage excess water due to flooding. Huge storage tanks were set off to the side at Kunming Lake. Guo Shujing is considered a master hydraulics engineer for his time according to Davis.
Vitruvius standardized piping systems in Rome to facilitate management of the water supply. Ultimately, a 3600′ Trajan Bridge was built across the Danube. The presentation includes pictures of the piping systems and bridge infrastructure. The book provides examples of how engineers managed considerable technological feats in their lifetime. For instance, a 16th century Ctesibiu pump lifts water in great quantities. Brunelleschi designed the dome of Santa Maria which is the largest brick dome on earth. Galileo’s pendulum and DaVinci’s
flying machine designs are included to round out the scientific coverage in the book.
Engineers is an excellent reference for explaining the linkages between ancient and modern engineering systems and processes. The presentation is very understandable with numerous charts and full color pictures to illustrate the complex concepts set forth. In addition, the book could be useful for a wide constituency of engineering/infrastructure planners in both private industry and the government.