The Great Bridge
October 26, 2020
Five stars. Mister McCullough does a wonderful job of bringing the main characters to life. It is the story of innovation, overbearing fathers, overcoming adversity, jealousy, corruption, politics, vision, love, determination, naysayers, iron versus steel and the press. It has it all.
What I find most remarkable is this bridge, built in the 1870s before automobiles, still stands today performing a critical role for transportation between Manhattan and Brooklyn. And perhaps just as remarkable is that the design was carried out by one man and his son who became an invalid. Think of all the calculations they had to do using a slide rule, how they needed to spec out all the components of the bridge. Today there were would be dozens (hundreds) of engineers using design software and planning software to construct such a project. Humbling what the Roeblings did.
I've now read (or listened to) Mister McCulough's books on the Wright Brothers, the Panama Canal and the Brooklyn Bridge. And John Adams. I certainly feel smarter for having done so. The Adams book is really wonderful.
As an aside, several years ago I was in Arlington, Massachusetts - a suburb of Boston. I came across a typewriter repair shop (you don't see those every day) and stuck my head in when I saw a couple of Underwoods in the window. I had a wonderful conversation with the two men working in the store. They told me that Mister McCullough wrote his books using an Underwood No. 5 which they would work on once a decade to keep it in working order. (My memory is a bit foggy on the No. 5 - it may have been a No. 4 but that model is rarer so I think it was a No. 5)