peteg's blog - noise - books - 2016 08 25 Spufford BackroomBoys

Francis Spufford: Backroom Boys: The Secret Return of the British Boffin.

/noise/books | Link

Kindle. This is Spufford trying to explain how the British Backroom Boffin evolved from inventive technical genius to (I think) financial engineer, helped along by Thatcherism in the 1980s. There are six chapters:

  1. Rocketry.
  2. The Concorde, which is essentially all about economics, Government-funded development and quixotic post-war European aspirationalism. France won bigger here with AĆ©rospatiale and later Airbus.
  3. Elite, which drove Michael Clune crazy (on a C64).
  4. The development of various coverage mapping technologies by Vodafone.
  5. The human genome project, focusing on Craig Venter's bastardry (which is taken as a given). His very brief account of DNA is far superior to Cobb's book-length effort.
  6. The Beagle 2, which failed to respond after arriving on Mars, before the book was published.

None have entirely adequate treatments, mostly because each could use a full-length book all by themselves. Also his writing here does not reach his later highs. Reviews are legion.