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One Good Turn: A Natural History of the Screwdriver and the Screw

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One Good Turn: A Natural History of the Screwdriver and the Screw Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

From Powells.com:

Nineteen ninety-nine was a good year for magazine editors. With the twentieth century ending and the new millennium approaching, it didn't take much creativity to come up with ideas for articles: Most Influential Person of the Millennium; Most Important Battle of the Millennium; Best Movie of the Century; etc. These ideas could get quite obscure. For example, the editor of the New York Times Magazine conceived an idea for an article about the best tool of the passing millennium. However, if this sounds dull, it gets more interesting when you learn that the person asked to write the article was Witold Rybczynski. Professor of Urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania, Rybczynski is one of our most intelligent — and engaging — writers on the interplay between social and physical culture. He has written fascinating histories of architecture, urban design, and the idea of home, and his biography of America's greatest landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, A Clearing in the Distance, was a national bestseller and won both the Christopher Award and J. Anthony Lukas Prize.

After agreeing to write an article about the best tool of the millennium, Rybczynski had to decide just which tool qualified for the honor. This search proved more difficult, and more interesting, than Rybczynski first imagined. He eventually settled on the "laughably simple" screwdriver and wrote his article. Once completed, though, he decided the screwdriver deserved a fuller treatment and expanded the article into a book. As in all his books, Rybczynski uses a limited subject as a springboard to discuss larger social, historical, and philosophical issues. For Rybczynski, the story of the screwdriver involves colorful figures like Archimedes and Leonardo da Vinci and was essential to the development of Enlightenment philosophy and American industry. One Good Turn will be of interest to any reader with an interest in the history of technology, but also to anyone with a broad curiosity or simply a love of excellent writing. Farley, Powells.com

Publisher Comments:

The seeds of Witold Rybczynski's elegant and illuminating new book were sown by The New York Times, whose editors asked him to write an essay identifying "the best tool of the millennium." The award-winning author of Home: A Short History of an Idea and, most recently, A Clearing in the Distance: Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the Nineteenth Century, Rybczynski once built a house using only hand tools. His intimate knowledge of the toolbox — both its contents and its history — serves him beautifully on his quest.

One Good Turn is a story starring Archimedes, who invented the water screw and introduced the helix, and Leonardo, who sketched a machine for carving wood screws. It is a story of mechanical discovery and genius that takes readers from Ancient Greece to Victorian Glasgow, from weapons design in the Italian Renaissance to car design in the age of American industry. Rybczynski writes an ode to the screw, without which there would be no telescope, no microscope — in short, no enlightenment science. The screwdriver, perhaps the last hand tool in a world gone cyber, represents nothing less than the triumph of precision.

One of our finest cultural and architectural historians, Rybczynski renders a graceful, original, and engaging portrait of the tool that changed the course of civilization.

Review:

"Rybczynski...felt a bit let down when the Sunday magazine of the New York Times asked him to write an article about 'the best tool' of the second millennium....Many tools, he soon found, predate the second millennium....[But then he] read somewhat disbelievingly that the screwdriver did not appear until the 19th century. That set him off on a search for earlier references to this 'laughably simple tool.' The result is this splendid account of a number of tools, of the evolution of the screw and finally of his discovery that the "turnscrew" is indeed much older than Goodman thought." Scientific American

Review:

"As the year 2000 approached, Rybczynski was asked to write a short essay on the 'best tool' of the millennium for the New York Times Magazine....after considerable digging, he found himself writing about the screwdriver....[his] central thesis is that men like Maudslay and Mercer possess the same kind of intuitive spark as great artists do – a thesis that this book convincingly illustrates. Charming, witty, and, despite its seemingly desultory structure, quite cunningly thought-out." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"[M]idway through the book, the fascinating digressions [begin]....Rybczynski argues convincingly that the application of helical adjustment is one of the core principles of the Industrial Revolution." M.R. Montgomery, The New York Times Book Review

Synopsis:

The seeds of Witold Rybczynski's elegant and illuminating new book were sown by The New York Times, whose editors asked him to write an essay identifying "the best tool of the millennium." The award-winning author of Home: A Short History of an Idea and, most recently, A Clearing in the Distance: Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the Nineteenth Century, Rybczynski once built a house using only hand tools. His intimate knowledge of the toolbox — both its contents and its history — serves him beautifully on his quest.

One Good Turn is a story starring Archimedes, who invented the water screw and introduced the helix, and Leonardo, who sketched a machine for carving wood screws. It is a story of mechanical discovery and genius that takes readers from Ancient Greece to Victorian Glasgow, from weapons design in the Italian Renaissance to car design in the age of American industry. Rybczynski writes an ode to the screw, without which there would be no telescope, no microscope — in short, no enlightenment science. The screwdriver, perhaps the last hand tool in a world gone cyber, represents nothing less than the triumph of precision.

One of our finest cultural and architectural historians, Rybczynski renders a graceful, original, and engaging portrait of the tool that changed the course of civilization.

About the Author

Witold Rybczynski is the author of nine books, including Home: The Short History of an Idea, The Most Beautiful House in the World, Waiting for the Weekend, City Life, and A Clearing in the Distance, for which he won The Christopher Award and the J. Anthony Lukas Prize. He is a regular contributor to The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, and The New York Review of Books. He teaches at the University of Pennsylvania.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780684867298
Subtitle:
A Natural History of the Screwdriver and the Screw
Author:
Rybczynski, Witold
Publisher:
Scribner
Location:
New York :
Subject:
General
Subject:
History
Subject:
Hand Tools
Subject:
Power Tools
Subject:
Screws.
Subject:
Screwdrivers.
Subject:
General Architecture
Subject:
General Architecture
Subject:
General History
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Series Volume:
no. 81-7
Publication Date:
20000919
Binding:
Hardback
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Yes
Pages:
176
Dimensions:
7.5 x 5.12 in 9.975 oz

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Related Subjects

Engineering » Home Construction » Tools
Reference » Science Reference » General
Science and Mathematics » Engineering » Historical Devices and Tools
Science and Mathematics » History of Science » Technology

One Good Turn: A Natural History of the Screwdriver and the Screw Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$4.50 In Stock
Product details 176 pages Scribner Book Company - English 9780684867298 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Rybczynski...felt a bit let down when the Sunday magazine of the New York Times asked him to write an article about 'the best tool' of the second millennium....Many tools, he soon found, predate the second millennium....[But then he] read somewhat disbelievingly that the screwdriver did not appear until the 19th century. That set him off on a search for earlier references to this 'laughably simple tool.' The result is this splendid account of a number of tools, of the evolution of the screw and finally of his discovery that the "turnscrew" is indeed much older than Goodman thought."
"Review" by , "As the year 2000 approached, Rybczynski was asked to write a short essay on the 'best tool' of the millennium for the New York Times Magazine....after considerable digging, he found himself writing about the screwdriver....[his] central thesis is that men like Maudslay and Mercer possess the same kind of intuitive spark as great artists do – a thesis that this book convincingly illustrates. Charming, witty, and, despite its seemingly desultory structure, quite cunningly thought-out."
"Review" by , "[M]idway through the book, the fascinating digressions [begin]....Rybczynski argues convincingly that the application of helical adjustment is one of the core principles of the Industrial Revolution."
"Synopsis" by , The seeds of Witold Rybczynski's elegant and illuminating new book were sown by The New York Times, whose editors asked him to write an essay identifying "the best tool of the millennium." The award-winning author of Home: A Short History of an Idea and, most recently, A Clearing in the Distance: Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the Nineteenth Century, Rybczynski once built a house using only hand tools. His intimate knowledge of the toolbox — both its contents and its history — serves him beautifully on his quest.

One Good Turn is a story starring Archimedes, who invented the water screw and introduced the helix, and Leonardo, who sketched a machine for carving wood screws. It is a story of mechanical discovery and genius that takes readers from Ancient Greece to Victorian Glasgow, from weapons design in the Italian Renaissance to car design in the age of American industry. Rybczynski writes an ode to the screw, without which there would be no telescope, no microscope — in short, no enlightenment science. The screwdriver, perhaps the last hand tool in a world gone cyber, represents nothing less than the triumph of precision.

One of our finest cultural and architectural historians, Rybczynski renders a graceful, original, and engaging portrait of the tool that changed the course of civilization.

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