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Moon F.C. The Machines of Leonardo Da Vinci and Franz Reuleaux

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Moon F.C. The Machines of Leonardo Da Vinci and Franz Reuleaux
Kinematics of Machines from the Renaissance to the 20th Century. — New York: Springer, 2007. — 443 p.
This book consists of four parts which actually should best be understood as four seperate essays by the same author. The first of these is a biographical comparison of Leonardo da Vinci and Franz Reuleaux, a German engineering educator of the late nineteenth century. Though at first this may seem somewhat absurd, the point the author makes is that in their approach to describing mechanical devices there is much similarity between the two. In order to establish that, Francis Moon demonstrates a thorough mastery of the documentary evidence of da Vinci and great familiarity with the work of Reuleaux, particularly his library of physical models of mechanisms. The second essay is a historical summary of the evolution of the design of machines from ancient times into the 20th century. This is a fascinating study that focuses on the level of connection between mathematical analytical understanding and intuitive kinematic understanding of mechanical machine design. It addresses the usually ignored topic of HOW engineers of the past designed things. To an engineer there are no end of interesting topics covered as for instance,a comparison of the flying machines designs of da Vinci and Otto Lilienthal, who was a student of Reuleaux. The third essay is a series of brief comparisons of 20 distinct mechanisms described in some detail by both da Vinci and Reuleaux in their writings. It is hard not to be fascinated by this, at least if you are a mechanical engineer. The fourth essay is a bibliographical review of much of the material the book is based on. This is by no means the least interesting part. I think the book might have read a little more coherently if the second essy in order had been the first but that would perhaps gone against the relative order of the title and subtitle of the book. I ended up giving this book five stars even though it is very much an academic work, with significant repetition and limited narrative thrust. For one thing, the illustrations are virtually innumerable (143 to be numerous)and of great quality though sometimes necessarily a little small in reproduction. Next the reference material is highly accessible both in the last essay but also more especially throughout the text. Finally the book is a convenient entry way and guide to an online resource, the KMODDL Kinematic Models for Design Digital Library at Cornell which is fairly wonderful. To sum up, if you are actually interested in the subtitle of this book, "Kinematics of Machines from the Renaissance to the 20th Century" then this is a five star buy without any doubt.
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