a lifetime of dealing with the production and distribution of
machine tools I have been impressed by the vital part that tools
have played in the history of the Industrial Revolution.
Even at the risk of appearing
partisan to the Industry in which I have had such an absorbing
interest it does seem odd, if not unfair, that those who hail
technological marvels as triumphs of ingenuity and skill fail to
give any credit to those engineers whose work has made such
spectacular inventions possible.
But for the innovators and creators
of machine tools, there would be no steam turbines, motor cars,
bicycles, airplanes, radio, washing machines nor, indeed, most
of those industrial and domestic items on which civilized
The names and the work of the machine tool
builders have, for the most part, remained hidden within the
four walls of the workshop and their ingenuity quite
unappreciated by the public at large.
tribute to these unacknowledged 'back-room boys' is long overdue
and I am glad to see published a book which fulfills this need.
This volume is, however, not a catalogue of fulsome compliments,
though they are well enough merited, to the pioneers of machines
for making machines. It presents for the first time a
definitive short history of machine tools.
Although the development of the
machine tool in the United Kingdom up to the middle of the
nineteenth century is fairly well covered by Samuel Smiles as
well as by Professor Roe, there the story previously ended.
What was needed, therefore, was a
modern Smiles to carry out the necessary research and write a
book covering objectively and comprehensively the interplay of
metal-working production needs and complementary development of
the machine tool in both the Old and New Worlds and there could
not have been found a better author than Mr. L. T. C. Rolt,
distinguished writer and engineer-historian, to see this task
It is my sincere hope, surely not
without foundation, that this book's contribution to the
knowledge of those machines on which our present civilization
depends will be widely welcomed.