History

Heat Wave

The Covid-19 lockdown had the odd effect of making the entire spring season disappear. Spending three months largely indoors, with a reduced project workload but a huge increase in administrative work, erased any sense of the tail end of cold weather and the start of warm weather. The lockdown has mostly ended in time for …

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Standardization, Part 5

Various shifts in society – arguably the development of technical counterparts to the modern bureaucratic state – started around 1900 and had huge effects on the world of engineering and construction. One of those changes was the licensing of engineers to create a standard (there’s that word again) for judging minimum competence. In 1907, Wyoming …

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Standardization, Part 4

In 1890, there were hundreds of steel sections rolled by dozens of mills. Most of the sections were effectively legacies of wrought iron, rolled to the same geometry as the predecessor metal, which was still in use. There was general agreement on what steel was, but competing ideas about metallurgy. All told, saying that you …

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Standardization, Part 2

The engineering concept of standardization plays a part in American history as taught in high school. Early in US history, say in 1800, the country had little industrial capacity and relied heavily on trade with Europe for advanced manufactured items. By 1900, the US had become an industrial powerhouse; the 1876 Centennial Fair in Philadelphia …

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