Billington, David P. 1927–
Billington, David P. 1927–
(David Perkins Billington)
Born June 1, 1927, in Bryn Mawr, PA; son of Nelson (an insurance broker) and Jane (a dietician and writer) Billington; married Phyllis Berquist (a piano teacher), August 26, 1951; children: David, Jr., Elizabeth N. Billington Fox, Jane N., Philip N., Stephen N., Sarah L. Education: Princeton University, B.S.E., 1950; attended University of Louvain, Louvain, Belgium, 1950-51, University of Ghent, Flanders, Belgium, 1951-52, and University of Delft, Delft, the Netherlands, 1966-67. Politics: Republican. Religion: Episcopalian.
Roberts & Schaefer Co., New York, NY, structural engineer, 1952-60; Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, visiting lecturer, 1958-60, associate professor, 1960-64, professor of civil engineering, 1964—, Gordon Y.S. Wu professor of engineering, beginning 1996; consultant; writer. Visiting professor, Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton, 1974-75 and 1977-78; A.D. White professor-at-large, Cornell University, 1987—; Robert Noyce Visiting Professor, Grinnell College, 2006. Member of delegation of visiting engineers to the Soviet Union, 1958. Military service: U.S. Navy, 1945-46.
International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering, American Concrete Institute, American Society of Civil Engineers (fellow), Association of Shell Structures, National Academy of Engineering, Society for the History of Technology.
Fulbright fellow, 1950-51 and 1951-52; American Society of Civil Engineers awards, 1956-67; National Science Foundation (NSF) fellow, 1966-67; grants from NSF, 1963-83, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1969—, and National Endowment for the Arts, 1977-79; Dexter Prize, Society for the History of Technology, 1979, for Robert Maillart's Bridges: The Art of Engineering; Dana Award, Charles A. Dana Foundation, 1990; New Jersey Professor of the Year award, Carnegie Foundation, 1995; Sarton Medal, University of Ghent, Belgium, 1999; Sarton Chair Award, 1999-2000; Director's Distinguished Teaching Scholar Award, NSF, 2003; John P. McGovern Lecture Award in science, Cosmos Club Foundation, 2004; Charles Zollman Award, Pre-stressed and Pre-cast Concrete Institute, 2004; senior fellow, National Academy of Engineering, 2005-06. Honorary degrees from Union College, 1990, Grinnell College, 1991, and Notre Dame University, 1997.
Thin Shell Concrete Structures, McGraw (New York, NY), 1965, revised edition, 1982.
Robert Maillart's Bridges: The Art of Engineering, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1979.
The Tower and the Bridge: The New Art of Structural Engineering, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1983.
Robert Maillart and the Art of Reinforced Concrete, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 1990.
The Innovators: The Engineering Pioneers Who Made America Modern, Wiley (New York, NY), 1996.
Robert Maillart: Builder, Designers, and Artist, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1997.
(With Jameson W. Doig) The Art of Structural Design: A Swiss Legacy, Princeton University Art Museum (Princeton, NJ), 2003.
The History of Large Federal Dams: Planning, Design, and Construction in the Era of Big Dams, U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation (Denver, CO), 2005.
(With Donald C. Jackson) Big Dams and the New Deal Era: A Confluence of Engineering and Politics, University of Oklahoma Press (Norman, OK), 2005.
(With David P. Billington, Jr.) Power, Speed, and Form: Engineers and the Making of the Twentieth Century, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 2006.
Editor, with Myron Goldsmith, of Technique and Aesthetics in the Design of Tall Buildings, 1986.
A longtime professor of engineering at Princeton University, David P. Billington is the author of numerous books dealing with construction and design, as well as with profiles of major structural engineers. This last-named interest inspired several books on the works of the Swiss engineer Robert Maillart, including the 1990 title, Robert Maillart and the Art of Reinforced Concrete. Maillart, who lived from 1872 to 1940, was a pioneer in the expressive uses of reinforced concrete in construction and design. Writing in Technology Review, Thomas Frick felt that Billington's book "allows the reader to grasp the structural basis of Maillart's design decisions." Billington's interest in Maillart led to his cowriting the 2003 title The Art of Structural Design: A Swiss Legacy, which serves as an overview to the work not only of Maillart, but also of such designers and engineers as Christian Menn and Othmar H. Ammann.
Engineering on a more massive scale is dealt with in Big Dams and the New Deal Era: A Confluence of Engineering and Politics, a survey and history of some of the largest dams built in the American West during the 1930s. A California Bookwatch contributor felt that Billington's book is an "important key to understanding the growth and development of the West as a whole." Equally large in scope is the 2006 title Power. Speed, and Form: Engineers and the Making of the Twentieth Century, cowritten with the author's son. This work details eight breakthrough engineering and technology feats that transformed the United States between 1876 and 1939, including the telephone, the creation of an electrical grid, the automobile, and reinforced concrete construction, among others. Writing in the American Scientist, Thomas P. Hughes noted that "the Billingtons' book differs from many other histories of American technology in that the authors stress that the language of engineering is mathematical." Booklist contributor George Cohen praised the work for providing "a thorough history of engineering achievements," and Sara Thompson, writing in Library Journal, also commended the book as a "successful sequel" to the earlier title, The Innovators: The Engineering Pioneers Who Made America Modern, which looks at early nineteenth-century innovations.
Billington once told CA: "My major vocational interests are teaching and scholarship. Much of my research is in Western Europe, so I travel there every year. I speak French well and have a good working knowledge of German and Dutch. Another major interest is my parish church for which I have served as vestryman and lay reader."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Scientist, January-February, 2007, Thomas P. Hughes, review of Power, Speed, and Form: Engineers and the Making of the Twentieth Century, p. 84.
Booklist, September 15, 2006, George Cohen, review of Big Dams and the New Deal Era: A Confluence of Engineering and Politics, p. 12.
Building Design, May 16, 2003, review of The Art of Structural Design: A Swiss Legacy, p. 19.
California Bookwatch, February, 2007, review of Big Dams and the New Deal Era.
Discover, February, 1984, review of The Tower and the Bridge: The New Art of Structural Engineering.
Library Journal, June 15, 2003, David R. Conn, review of The Art of Structural Design, p. 66; September 1, 2006, Sara Thompson, review of Power, Speed, and Form, p. 177.
Mechanical Engineering, October, 2006, review of Power, Speed, and Form, p. 57.
Technology Review, January, 1992, Thomas Frick, review of Robert Maillart and the Art of Reinforced Concrete, p. 77.
Daily Princetonian Online, http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/ (April 17, 2003), Chana Landes, "Museum Exhibit Honors Swiss Design."
Princeton University School of Architecture,http://soa.princeton.edu/ (May 22, 2007), "Associated Faculty: David Billington A.S.C.E."