Review of “The Perfectionists” by Simon Winchester

Book on the history of making precise objects, from making a mechanical clock that would help sailors tell their longitude position while out at sea, to the lens for the Hubble telescope and of course today’s transistors.

It contains many interesting stories and tidbits. For example:

  1. The making of precise objects today, using machine tools, is impressive. But even more impressive to me is making them by hand — for example John Harrison, who in the early through mid 1700s (over 45 years) made a sequence of time-pieces, culminating in a watch-sized timepiece that was only off by mere seconds after a few months’ long journey on a ship.

I found the book well worth reading. The author does go on a half-baked tangent near the end on whether pursuing precision (e.g. smaller transistors for faster computers) is “good” for humanity, but otherwise I found the story-telling to be great. And from what I’ve read separately, the book seems accurate.

I study CS/Econ and applications to socio-technical issues. Blog about books and technical issues. PhD Stanford, BS/BA UT Austin. gargnikhil.com

I study CS/Econ and applications to socio-technical issues. Blog about books and technical issues. PhD Stanford, BS/BA UT Austin. gargnikhil.com