Archive for March 16th, 2012


sam florman and the wiseguys he’s put up buildings with

Back in late January, I received a very gracious personal letter from Samuel C. Florman. Sam is chairman of the Kreisler Borg Florman General Construction Co., and he’s widely known for authoring six books on the relationship between technology and general culture. His most popular is The Existential Pleasures of Engineering—many of you have probably read it.

In his letter, Sam recalled the time, many years ago, when I became editor of Mechanical Engineering and he spoke of the time, in 1982, when he received the Ralph Coats Roe Medal. He spoke of how much technology—and the world, for that matter—has changed since then. Of course, he’s right. Sam has seen many changes since his youth.

He grew up in New York City during the Depression and earned degrees from Dartmouth and then Columbia, with a stint in the Navy Seabees in between. His work in construction began during a vibrant time of growth in the city where it seemed that the skyline changed almost weekly.

With his letter, Sam was also kind enough to send me a preview version of his latest book, Good Guys, Wiseguys, and Putting Up Buildings and promised to send me a final version when it came out this week. He also told me this will probably be his last book, but I have some doubts. He’s still got a lot to contribute—he’s a regular columnist for Harper’s and Technology Review.

The final version of Sam’s book arrived last week and this past Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal ran a review of it. Personally, I think the book is great. Even though the publisher made it out to be about the mob’s influence on the construction industry, it really is more about a slice in time, Sam Florman’s time. It was a time that defined this city’s landscape and its imprint on this country.

At the moment I’m trying to convince Sam to let us excerpt the book in Mechanical Engineering. I hope he does. I’ll let you know.

The Editor

John G. Falcioni is Editor-in-Chief of Mechanical Engineering magazine, the flagship publication of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

March 2012

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