Houston Matters

Your Smartphone Owes A Debt To Some ‘Perfectionists’ From The 1800s

In his new book, The Perfectionists, Simon Winchester explores the proliferation of precision engineering in our modern world.

HThe Perfectionists - Book Coverouston is a city full of engineers whose skill and expertise make so much of our modern lives possible. But a lot of that precision is a relatively recent invention. 

So much of engineering nowadays is super-precise – objects cut to specifications in the microns. It’s what allows things like our cell phones, computers, and cars to be fitted together with hyper-precision. And a lot of that technology also relies on precision timing to work correctly.

But that level of perfection only goes back as far as the 1800s, as writer Simon Winchester found in his book The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World. In it, he explores the origins of precision in the Industrial Age and introduces us to the scientific minds who helped usher it into modern production.

Winchester is in Houston May 15 for an event with River Oaks Bookstore at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Prior to his visit, he told Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty the story of how precision engineering began, how it proliferated, and about its drawbacks.

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Michael Hagerty

Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the Senior Producer for Houston Matters. He has a degree in journalism from Abilene Christian University and has served as news director for NPR and PBS stations around Texas and The West, including: KUNR-FM in Reno, Nev.; KNPB-TV in Reno, Nev.; and KWBU-TV/FM in Waco, Texas. He...

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