Engineering America: The Life and Times of John A. Roebling

Oxford Univ. May 2020. 640p. ISBN 9780190663902. $34.95. BIOG
Haw (interdisciplinary studies, John Jay Coll. of Criminal Justice, CUNY) has already written two books on the Brooklyn Bridge: The Brooklyn Bridge: A Cultural History and Art of the Brooklyn Bridge: A Visual History. Here, the author profiles the engineer of the famous structure: John A. Roebling (1806–69). Drawing on primary sources, such as the Roebling Archives at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, this work explores how German-born Johann Roebling became fascinated with suspension bridges as a young architecture and engineering student in Berlin, and how he grew frustrated with Germany’s reluctance to take a risk on a new type of construction. Haw also focuses on Roebling’s character; he valued science as well as the pseudoscientific, eschewing medical care for alternative remedies. The author describes how, after Roebling’s death, his son Washington (1837–1926) was left to complete the bridge his father started. This can be enjoyed alongside Erica Wagner’s Chief Engineer, about Washington Roebling’s work on the bridge.
VERDICT This lengthy biography of a civil engineer who significantly impacted history should engage anyone interested in inventions and engineering.

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