Linda Hall Library of Science, Engineering, & Technology
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British Bridges
Missouri Bridges

Strength and Design

Strength of Materials
Designing an Arch
Dresden Bridge
Pont de Neuilly

Centuries of Civil Engineering

Galilei, Galileo (1564-1642)
Discorsi e dimostrazioni matematiche, intorno à due nuoue scienze.
Leiden: appresso gli Elsevirii, 1638.
Water Supply
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Many mathematicians before Galileo had dealt with the problem of statics – how forces are transmitted by structural members. Galileo proposed a new science, the study of the strength of materials, that considered how the size and shape of structural members affects their ability to carry and transmit loads. He discovered that as the length of a beam increases, its strength decreases, unless you increase the thickness and breadth at an even greater rate. You cannot, therefore, simply double or triple the dimensions of a beam, and expect it to carry double or triple the load. This led Galileo to recognize what we now call the scaling problem – there are limits to how big nature can make a tree, or an animal, for beyond a certain limit, the branches of the tree or the limbs of the animal, will break under their own weight.

The illustration of a cantilever beam demonstrates Galileo’s discovery that the breaking force on a beam increases as the square of its length.


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