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Publisher's Summary

The revered New York Times best-selling author traces the development of technology from the Industrial Age to the Digital Age to explore the single component crucial to advancement - precision - in a superb history that is both an homage and a warning for our future.

The rise of manufacturing could not have happened without an attention to precision. At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in 18th-century England, standards of measurement were established, giving way to the development of machine tools - machines that make machines. Eventually, the application of precision tools and methods resulted in the creation and mass production of items from guns and glass to mirrors, lenses, and cameras - and eventually gave way to further breakthroughs, including gene splicing, microchips, and the Hadron Collider.

Simon Winchester takes us back to origins of the Industrial Age, to England where he introduces the scientific minds that helped usher in modern production: John Wilkinson, Henry Maudslay, Joseph Bramah, Jesse Ramsden, and Joseph Whitworth. It was Thomas Jefferson who later exported their discoveries to the fledgling United States, setting the nation on its course to become a manufacturing titan. Winchester moves forward through time, to today’s cutting-edge developments occurring around the world, from America to Western Europe to Asia.

As he introduces the minds and methods that have changed the modern world, Winchester explores fundamental questions. Why is precision important? What are the different tools we use to measure it? Who has invented and perfected it? Has the pursuit of the ultra-precise in so many facets of human life blinded us to other things of equal value, such as an appreciation for the age-old traditions of craftsmanship, art, and high culture? Are we missing something that reflects the world as it is, rather than the world as we think we would wish it to be? And can the precise and the natural co-exist in society?

©2018 Simon Winchester (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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    4 out of 5 stars

Somewhat less than perfect

Being a Simon Winchester addict, I am thrilled with every new release from this wonderful author. But I found this book less captivating then his other books, though fantastically informative and revealing. I missed the personal stories that so helped to make other books more lively. Perhaps my lesser affinity with precision (as opposed to my significant interest in geology and geography, for example), also played a role.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Inspiring stories about genius engineers.

The book is 100% readable by non-engineering types such as myself. Reading about the geniuses overcoming particular problems was exciting. I bought both the Kindle and the Audible editions and finished the book in about two and a half days. The book will probably inspire some people to go into the field of engineering.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Well researched history of precision.

Like most of Simon Winchester's books, this story is well organized and entertaining. I suggest listening to or reading the Afterward first to fully appreciate the scope and influence of the many examples from the beginning of the book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • .
  • 05-15-18

Simon Continues Storytelling Mastery

Winchester's research, writing and recitation of a relentless series of Zeros, will have you hanging on every Z!

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • WACO, TX, United States
  • 05-12-18

Marvelous book from a master story teller.

Winchester never fails to deliver an entertaining, informative and engrossing story.

He weaves together innovators from times past to the present in a virtually seamless story.

He is a master story teller. You will love this book

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Andy
  • Westport, CT, United States
  • 07-16-18

the evolution of measurement

Simon Winchester does a great job of walking us through the evolution of measurement and how it has influenced the simple and the complex. As usual, Winchester does it with a highly illuminated narrative and his wonderful narration.

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  • PT
  • Calgary, Alberta Canada
  • 07-14-18

Excellent read

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Mind you, I am into this stuff. How things we recognize got made from the industrial revolution through modern day products has a lot to do with materials, processes, manufacturing techniques... that's kind of intuitive. But less obvious are the underpinnings of how to measure, how to control tolerance, even how visualize things at ever reducing scale & mindboggling degrees of precision. The author takes you on a fascinating journey with these metrics in mind. It makes you appreciate human ingenuity and accomplishment.

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Love Simon

The story started slow but it became very interesting very quickly. I loved this book.

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Nice book

I liked this book! But measurements are provided using the imperial system and I find that both very ironic and annoying.

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great subject

Spectacular writing and subject. Narrator's voice was hoarse for most of it. Still, a great book.