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Humming, Gurgling and Whistling

Donald MacKenzie, 11 December 1997

Engineering the Revolution: Arms and Enlightenment in France, 1763-1815 
by Ken Alder.
Princeton, 494 pp., £45, April 1997, 0 691 02671 8
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... between the two are discussed at all, it is only at the most superficial level. The thesis of Ken Alder’s Engineering the Revolution is that the links go deep: into the subterranean 18th-century processes from which the French Revolution emerged; into the underpinnings of the military successes that almost gave Napoleonic France control of ...

Plus or Minus One Ear

Steven Shapin: Weights and Measures, 30 August 2012

World in the Balance: The Historic Quest for an Absolute System of Measurement 
by Robert Crease.
Norton, 317 pp., £18.99, October 2011, 978 0 393 07298 3
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... and bloody struggle in their establishment and maintenance, recognising, as the historian Ken Alder puts it, that ‘the price of standards is eternal vigilance.’ Contingency and struggle were the drivers of Thomas Pynchon’s great metrological novel Mason & Dixon, as they are of Crease’s book, whose special strength is attention to the last ...

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