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ICE hosts launch of historic engineering volume

A NEW translation of a civil engineering text book dating from 16th century Spain was launched at the British Library last week.

The use and control of water is the theme of the first comprehensive text book on civil engineering in any language by an 'overlooked pioneer of the renaissance'.

'Juanclo Turriano is not a leading Renaissance figure, but he is remembered in his native Spain as the author of a massive textbook which in 21 volumes sought to describe the engineering machines and processes of his day,' said water engineer and ICE fellow Robert Freer, who attended the presentation on Turriano and his works.

It is thought Turriano lived in Spain from 1500 to 1585. He started working as a clock master for Emperor Charles V before turning his hand to engineering. His reputation was made by the building a 27.4m-high water pump for Philip II, to supply the city of Toledo from the river with 17,000 litres per day.

The pump was unique in Europe at that time, but fell into disuse and then ruin through lack of maintenance.

'It is now an academic challenge to try to work out from contemporary descriptions how it actually operated,' said Freer.

The two volumes are peppered with illustrations and working drawings of hydraulic mechanisms and marine structures for power, irrigation, industrial processes and domestic use.

'Most of the illustrations are more realistic than those of Leonardo De Vinci some 50 years earlier, but there are some mistakes and impossible mechanisms in these drawings as there are in some of Leonardo's drawings,' said Freer.

'An interesting next step in understanding Turriano's work would be for someone to make a technical appreciation of the mechanisms and structures he describes.'

The translation in two volumes by Leicester University's Dr Alex Keller is available from the Thomas Telford Bookshop, price £485.

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