Understanding the World's Greatest Structures: Science and Innovation from Antiquity to Modernity

Course No. 1153
Professor Stephen Ressler, Ph.D.
United States Military Academy, West Point
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Course No. 1153
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Course Overview

Your world is filled with structures that have stood the test of time. That give character to the cities and landscapes in which they’re located. That are visited by millions of people each year. And that capture our wonder for the marvels of engineering innovation and progress. But while structures such as the Giza pyramids, Brunelleschi’s dome, and the Brooklyn Bridge are visual spectacles in and of themselves, they are just as important for the way they were designed as for the way they look.

Now, experience the engineering genius that makes these works possible with Understanding the World’s Greatest Structures: Science and Innovation from Antiquity to Modernity—a marvelous learning experience that takes you around the world and reveals the stories behind the most famous structures from thousands of years of history. Delivered by award-winning Professor Stephen Ressler of the United States Military Academy at West Point, a civil engineer and a nationally honored leader in engineering education, these 24 lectures take you on a fascinating and richly illustrated tour that deftly blends history and science to create an unforgettable survey of our world’s most remarkable structural masterpieces.

Embark on a Whirlwind Tour of Great Structures

You spend the first few lectures delving into the scientific principles that govern six basic types of structural elements; the building blocks that compose nearly all of the world’s structures, from arches to columns to cables.

Once you’ve mastered how these and other elements work, you embark on a whirlwind tour of more than 150 great structures that takes you from the deserts of ancient Egypt to the skyscraper race of early 20th-century New York to the inventiveness of postmodern architecture. You’ll learn new insights into some of civilization’s most impressive buildings, bridges, and towers.

  • Parthenon: While known for its perfect proportions and architectural refinements, the Parthenon is actually a rather unsophisticated structural design—especially in its use of interior colonnades to support the roof.
  • Eiffel Tower: The Eiffel Tower is composed of iron bars arranged in interconnected triangles called trusses that can reach great heights with many small elements and allow for versatility of form.
  • Brooklyn Bridge: The four main cables of this suspension bridge are central to its ability to span the East River in New York City. Each of these cables is built up from over 5,000 steel wires.

Understanding the World’s Greatest Structures also considers structures that, while perhaps less familiar or more recent, are just as important to fully grasping the intricacy of structural engineering. These include Switzerland’s Salginatobel Bridge and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

Learn from Educational Expertise and Dynamic 3-D Models

Professor Ressler’s work and his dedication to engineering education have won him numerous national awards, including the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Outstanding Projects and Leaders Award—the organization’s highest honor. He brings this same award-winning knowledge and dedication to every lecture of Understanding the World’s Greatest Structures. Couple this with the stunning 3-D animations that re-create and allow you to take apart individual pieces of great structures, and you have an engaging learning experience that will change the way you think about the buildings around you.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    Learning to See and Understand Structure
    How are ideas for buildings, bridges, and towers transformed from sketches to concrete reality? What are the three essential qualities that make a structure great? What's the difference between seeing a structure and actually understanding it? Discover the answers to these and other questions in this introductory lecture. x
  • 2
    The Science of Structure—Forces in Balance
    Explore how two types of external forces—loads (forces applied to structures) and reactions (forces developed at supports, in response to applied loads)—act on structures such as Kansas City's Chouteau Bridge. Also, learn how these forces are related to the most important concept in engineering mechanics: equilibrium. x
  • 3
    Internal Forces, Stress, and Strength
    Use the Simple Tension Test (pulling on a structural element until it reaches the breaking point) as a gateway to understanding the concepts of internal force, stress, and strength. Then, see these concepts at work in structures such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Athens' Olympic Velodrome. x
  • 4
    From Wood to Steel—Properties of Materials
    Materials profoundly influence the form, function, and structure of great buildings, bridges, and towers. Using steel (which is superior in terms of strength, ductility, and stiffness) as a benchmark, compare the structural properties of wood, masonry, concrete, and iron—and see them at work in thousands of years' worth of structures. x
  • 5
    Building Up—Columns and Buckling
    One of the most potent human aspirations supported by engineering is to build up. Learn how this has been done from antiquity to the present with columns—structural members that carry load primarily in compression. You'll also learn about buckling: the often catastrophic stability failure that occurs in columns with certain geometric characteristics. x
  • 6
    Building Across—Beams and Bending
    Beams, combining tension and compression, are central to the second aspiration supported by engineering: building across long distances. As you survey beams from the primitive lintel over the Lion Gate at Mycenae to Norway's Raftsundet Bridge, you'll investigate scientific developments and transform your understanding of what makes this structural element possible. x
  • 7
    Trusses—The Power of the Triangle
    Trusses, the subject of this fascinating lecture, are rigid frameworks composed of structural members connected at joints and arranged into networks of triangles. Learn how they work to stabilize and support a range of structural wonders, including the Brooklyn Bridge and—most famously—the Eiffel Tower. x
  • 8
    Cables and Arches—The Power of the Parabola
    In this lecture, Professor Ressler introduces you to two final structural elements: cables and arches. The Saint Louis Gateway Arch and the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge are just two examples of breathtaking structural features that also have extensive, occasionally surprising, parallels. x
  • 9
    Loads and Structural Systems
    Structures are heavily influenced by the loads they're designed to carry. First, take a closer look at the most important loads structures must resist, including traffic loads and earthquake loads. Then, using the historic iron building at Watervliet Arsenal in New York, analyze how loads are actually transmitted through structural systems along load paths. x
  • 10
    Egypt and Greece—Pyramids to the Parthenon
    Embark on your tour of different types of structures from around the world and across time. Your first stop: ancient Egypt, and the surprisingly complex engineering of pyramids, including the Great and Red pyramids. Your second stop: ancient Greece, where you visit the domed Treasury of Atreus and break down the structural system of the Parthenon. x
  • 11
    The Glory of Rome in Arches and Vaults
    Learn why the arch is the principal structural feature of ancient Rome. Your detailed case studies range from simple bridges such as the Pont St. Martin and triumphal arches such as the Arch of Titus to massive aqueducts like the Pont du Gard and majestic public spaces like the Baths of Caracalla. x
  • 12
    The Rise and Fall of the Gothic Cathedral
    Gothic cathedrals are lasting testaments to the power of a series of sweeping architectural developments in medieval Europe. After examining the roots of Gothic cathedrals in their Romanesque predecessors, focus on several structural innovations—including flying buttresses and pointed arches—at work in places such as France's Chartres Cathedral. x
  • 13
    Three Great Domes—Rome to the Renaissance
    Trace the dome's evolution from the 1st century A.D. to the Renaissance. It's a journey reflected in the increasingly sophisticated domes of three great structures: the ancient Roman Pantheon, the Byzantine-era basilica of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, and the Renaissance-era dome over the Florence cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. x
  • 14
    How Iron and Science Transformed Arch Bridges
    Examine the development of arched bridges during and after the Industrial Revolution. See how the revolutionary Iron Bridge at Coalbrookdale paved the way for the development of science-based engineering. Also, see how science contributed to increasingly sophisticated modern bridges such as Spain's Campo Volantin Bridge. x
  • 15
    Suspension Bridges—The Battle of the Cable
    After learning the science behind suspension bridges, begin your two-lecture look at these structural marvels. Here, relive the "Battle of the Cable," in which 19th-century engineers struggled over whether to build suspension cables from iron chains (as in England's Menai Strait Bridge) or steel wire (as in the Brooklyn Bridge). x
  • 16
    Suspension Bridges—The Challenge of Wind
    In July 1940, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge dramatically collapsed in a steady 42-mph wind. In this concluding lecture on suspension bridges, focus on how the Brooklyn Bridge, the Severn Bridge, and other bridges were designed to combat the second great challenge of these record-breaking bridges: their vulnerability to wind-induced vibrations. x
  • 17
    Great Cantilever Bridges—Tragedy and Triumph
    Professor Ressler shows how structural catastrophes produced two bridges that provide a wonderful opportunity to see and understand structure: Scotland's Firth of Forth Bridge and Canada's second Quebec Bridge. You'll also gain insights into the human element of engineering, and the reasons structures turn out the way they do. x
  • 18
    The Rise of Iron- and Steel-Framed Buildings
    How did iron and steel revolutionize building design? Find out in this trip back to late 18th- and early 19th-century Europe and America, where iron-framed structures—such as sheds at England's Chatham Dockyard, New York City's Equitable Life Insurance Building, and Chicago's First Leiter Building—would set the stage for modern skyscrapers. x
  • 19
    The Great Skyscraper Race
    The human aspiration to build upward reaches its climax with the skyscraper. Learn the story behind America's "great skyscraper race" and the increasingly sophisticated buildings it produced. Among the structural masterpieces you examine in depth are the Wainwright Building, the Chrysler Building, the Willis Tower, and the World Trade Center towers. x
  • 20
    The Beauty and Versatility of Modern Concrete
    Concrete, the world's most commonly used construction material, has been used in buildings that are anything but common. See concrete's versatility at work in an incredible range of structures, including Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, the Salginatobel Bridge in the Swiss Alps, and Dubai's Burj Khalifa (currently the world's tallest building). x
  • 21
    Amazing Thin Shells—Strength from Curvature
    Thin shells are unique structural elements that use curvature—cylindrical, dome-like, or saddle-like—to attain strength and stiffness. See these three types of thin shells used creatively in buildings ranging from St. Paul's Cathedral in London to the Zeiss planetarium in Germany to the Trans World Flight Center at New York's JFK Airport. x
  • 22
    Vast Roof Systems of Iron and Steel
    The need for roofs spanning large enclosed spaces led to a startling number of new structural systems in the last 200 years. Look closer at long-span structural configurations in places such as the Houston Astrodome, the Berlin Hauptbahnhof, and even the Hartford Civic Center (the collapse of which offers a lesson in the risks of innovation). x
  • 23
    The Incredible Lightness of Tension Structures
    Apply old concepts in new ways with this lecture on tension structures, where all the principal load-carrying elements are in tension. Explore noteworthy examples, from the cable-supported roof of North Carolina's J. S. Dorton Arena to the suspended dish roof of Madison Square Garden to the cable dome of South Korea's Olympic Gymnastics Hall. x
  • 24
    Strategies for Understanding Any Structure
    What happens when you encounter a noteworthy structure that hasn't been included in this course and you want to know more about it? Professor Ressler devotes his final lecture to answering this question; sending you out into the world with suggested strategies for understanding any structure—great or otherwise. x

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Your professor

Stephen Ressler

About Your Professor

Stephen Ressler, Ph.D.
United States Military Academy, West Point
Dr. Stephen Ressler is Professor Emeritus from the United States Military Academy at West Point and a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). A registered Professional Engineer in Virginia, he earned a B.S. from West Point and an M.S. and a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from Lehigh University, as well as a Master of Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College. Professor Ressler's papers on...
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Understanding the World's Greatest Structures: Science and Innovation from Antiquity to Modernity is rated 4.9 out of 5 by 321.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good Review for the Non-Engineer. Review of engineering topics which is primarily oriented to the non-engineer person, explaining topics of common interest in a language and format that can be easily understood by all.
Date published: 2016-10-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Understanding the World's Greatest Structures Starting with basic terminology and detailed concepts this course captured my interest. Professor Ressler proceeded through examples complete with fantastic detailed models to illustrate various methods of construction. I would like to see a more detailed follow-up to his presentation of the collapse of the World Trade Center even though specific accurate details may not be available. Details of the Freedom Tower would also capture my interest.
Date published: 2016-10-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The best course I have ever purchased For anyone with interest in how bridges, towers and buildings are designed and constructed, this course is invaluable. The course will be of great interest to those who know nothing about the topic, those who will be studying engineering at a university and those who already have serious knowledge about the topic. The professor is excellent; his use of models and pictures of actual bridges, towers and buildings is very helpful. If you have ever wondered why structures are built as they are and why they sometimes fail, this is the course for you. For me, this course was like a book whose pages I could not stop turning until the very end.
Date published: 2016-09-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Course I have seen! I am working through my 20th Great Course :) and this has been the best. It set the standard by which other courses should be measured.
Date published: 2016-09-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Spectacular Teacher Prof. Ressler is suburb. I have watched and listened to a these courses for many years, and I would put his gifts as a teacher in the top five. Just to watch someone with his gifts as a teacher is a pleasure in its own right.
Date published: 2016-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Even if you have a technical background like me, a retired professor of physics, you will be delighted with this course on the Worlds Greatest Structures. HIs demonstrations make technical concepts intuitively clear. One shares what must have been his delight in personally constructing the many apparatus designed for clear understanding. As Professor Ressler says, the ancients’ empiricism makes their structures all the more impressive. I was amazed to learn in chapter 14 that even after the age of Newton, for 200 hundred years, science based methods were not used in the design of structures since the empirical approach, developed over thousands of years were well proven. More testimony to the power of the accumulated wisdom. When explaining modern structural approaches he carefully puts the advantages of the variety of modern techniques and material understanding in perspective. With all the differing innovative methods devised in bridges, buildings etc. and the understanding of dynamic effects like wind loading an impressive armamentarium of design understanding and choices have been built up for the structural engineer, and charmingly demonstrated by Professor Ressler. I highly recommend this course and hope for many more. My wife also enjoyed this and his other courses greatly. She is a former speech therapist without mathematics who was skeptical that the subject would interest her. Not now thanks to Professor Ressler's enthusiasm and insight into the subject.
Date published: 2016-07-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the very best I have seen As a retired structural analyst, I was worried after the first three lectures that this would only be a simplistic strength of materials course. Boy was I wrong. It turned out to be one of the most interesting I have had the privilege to view. The excellent professor uses many physical models (that he built) to demonstrate the basic concepts of external loads, internal load paths and modes of failure in numerous structural shapes. Most of these concepts are presented in such a way that non-engineers can understand. Best of all, he presents many dozens of actual buildings as examples, from 2000 years ago to the present. These graphics are excellent. These fascinating structures, until quite recently, were mostly designed with only empirical, (gut-level) design parameters. Quantitative methods have only been applied for a century or so. He also shows many examples of terrible failures. Note, that in more than one case, willful arrogance exceeded engineering skill levels! Conversely, there is one remarkable example of an engineer/architect discovering that his finished skyscraper would be vulnerable to a wind load he had not analyzed. His wise admission allowed for structural modifications that may have prevented a disaster! This course is best if you have some understanding of algebra, but even that is not absolutely necessary.
Date published: 2016-07-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great introduction or review to a complex subject. I wish I would have seen these lectures before I started architecture school. They provide an excellent introduction to the theories of structures. The professor does a great job demonstrating the evolution and application of principles with examples and simple demonstrations. Highly recommended for anyone interested in architecture and engineering, or simply how buildings, bridges and towers work.
Date published: 2016-07-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course This is one of the best courses we have watched at TGC. We learned a tremendous amount, the course was well organized, the pacing was excellent, the professor was extremely effective, and we got to see and understand some amazing structures. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2016-06-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great Structures Great structures is consistent with the previous courses I have purchased; content, instructor, material are all first-rate and extremely interesting. Prof. Ressler is terrific.
Date published: 2016-06-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Perfect Course There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that could be improved upon in this course. The lecturer, his presentation, his teaching models are all superb. The visual content is first class. All in all, a course that we were sorry to see end. This course can be enjoyed and appreciated by anyone, regardless of prior training. All that is required is a desire to learn.
Date published: 2016-06-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very good, but for who? I thought the instructor was very good and had excellent visuals to illustrate the various aspects of structural mechanics. The presentation was informative and detailed. The downfall from my perspective was knowing who the course was designed for. I am a professional engineer so found that the facets of engineering mechanics was entirely review of the material, (but I would have given anything to have learned these basics from Professor Ressler when I was in school). My concern was that the engineering explanations were too long and detailed for non-engineers to find interesting and too basic for engineers. For the right audience, the course would be fantastic - I just don't know what that audience is.
Date published: 2016-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent A wonderful learning experience. I looked forward to my half hour session each day.
Date published: 2016-03-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from superficial treatment of technical matter first, the lecturer is excellent. he knows his stuff and presents it well. I like the historical perspective he gives. unfortunately, the course is not a great. it is at best an average treatment of a very interesting topic. the analysis lacks sophistication. the mathematical level is high school remedial level. trigonometry and algebra are treated as "black magic", who is the audience here? it's certainly not people who are committed to a continuous life long growth and attainment of knowledge. I think this material is well suited for high school students and trades men and women.
Date published: 2016-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Learn How Those Big Things Stand...or Don't According to Vitruvius, buildings should have beauty, utility and strength, or as today’s architects put it, form, function and structure. This very good course explains important principles of engineering and shows how they sustain amazing structures that still stand today, bridges, temples, churches and skyscrapers. It is a real joy to watch because of Professor Ressler’s many desktop demonstrations. For example, he uses a foam rubber beam in his hands to demonstrate compression and tension, and blocks to show how an arch atop columns would collapse without buttresses on the outside walls. There is mathematics, of course, but only some of it involves following formulas (which I am not very good at, being a liberal arts major) while the rest of it uses graphed curves, such as the stress-strain curve or an illustration of the difference between parabolas and catenaries. Ressler also has a sense of humor. While holding a rubber cord over his head to illustrate how suspension bridges work, he warns young viewers not to try this at home…not because it’s dangerous but because it makes you look foolish. While discussing geodesic domes, he says “I wish I had a soccer ball somewhere around here,” and someone from off camera immediately throws him a soccer ball. As to content, there are four unifying themes, though Ressler doesn’t get around to stating them until Lecture 10: basic principles of engineering and mechanics; the concept of structural system; the highly variable relationship between form, function and structure; and the notion that understanding a structure depends on its historical context. In time period, the course stretches from the ancient world to the present, just as the subtitle says, but Ressler argues for a clear division between the era of empirical design and the era of scientific design beginning around 1600 A.D. In the former style architects create building designs through trial and error, while in the latter they use mathematical models to predict how a structure will behave in the real world. Since some “scientifically designed” structures like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge of 1940 (“Galloping Gertie,” shown on video here) have collapsed and forced a reassessment of the mathematics, scientific design still seems pretty empirical to me. If nothing else, you should come away with the knowledge that the quality of design comes down to a structure’s ability to bear loads—dead loads, live loads, occupancy loads, wind loads, snow loads and earthquake loads—any of which can cause failure. Ressler is a good lecturer overall, but sometimes hesitant. He gets better, fortunately; in his next course, on Greek and Roman technology, the hesitation is absent.
Date published: 2016-03-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Starting Block for Future Engineers I recently learned that many Civil Engineers and Architects benefit from a historical foundation of success / failures of complex projects. The course points out the lucky empirical monuments that were based on know how and trial / error over time. But very quickly, you can see how a background in project management, mechanics, and basic physics changes the course of history in design / robust structures that are beautiful, efficient, and safe. I appreciated the quality of the instructor and his vast knowledge / experience on the topic. Anyone with kids with the propensity to build, tinker, or gravitate towards engineering should consider purchasing this course so that they have a good foundation for the language / concepts if they desire to pursue engineering as a future career. These courses will help them appreciate the invention of idea, and the delivery of sound / structurally beautiful / thoughtful bridges and buildings.
Date published: 2016-02-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A grand tour of structural engineering The couse can be divided into two parts: a crash class on engineering structures (about 9 lectures) followed by discussions of great engineering structures (about 15 lectures). As with the lecturer's other courses, his demonstrations and models are simply great, an unexpected bonus. The crash course on structural engineering -- If you are really interested, say you are dating or married to a structural engineer, this is really good. For the rest of us, this portion seems excessive and might better have been condensed to about one-third its length. The majority of the course, a tour of great structures, is to me of much more interest. One can't help but come away with a far greater appreciation of these buildings and bridges. If anything, the couse is too short and thus one must follow-up with more detailed research afterward. For example, dams are not even mentioned, though he covers them in his course on Everyday Engineering. The discussions of Greek and Roman structures seems unfulfilling, but he has an excellent separate course just on those topics. He discusses big failures too and the lessons learned, an important part of engineering. Due to time limitations, I think the discussion of the Tay bridge failure focuses only on one cause, perhaps not the main cause, and I believe there is a whole generation of suspension bridge design to overcome wind-induced failure that is not mentioned. But one can't fit everything I want into the course. Please revel in his carefully constructed models and demonstrations. You must come away feeling much more informed.
Date published: 2016-02-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engineering is entertaining! My husband and I have purchased several of the Great Courses. I purchased this particular course for myself to learn how the great cathedrals of Europe were constructed, and still stand! Many of the buildings Professor Ressler discusses we've visited; and bridges we've driven over. The professor is high energy. He communicates his knowledge at a level a non-engineer may grasp. I loved his miniature samples he used for explanation. Last year we visited La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Drat! I wish I'd purchased and watched this course first! Ressler expains how Gaudi engineered this grand church by constructing a sampe version, upside down and on the ceiling! Wow! Who would have thought??
Date published: 2016-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Alien's did not do it, humans figured it out!!! Communication is great with Ressler, I love his clear explanations. I would suggest that teachers have this in a classroom to use with any age students. It is a boon to history classes not just science classes. I recognize his style, a young officer copied his style when substituting in a class I sat in upon and I wondered where he got it. I like the book that accompanies this course as it has pictures and some of the other graphics that is on the disc so the book can be used separately if viewing is not possible all the time.
Date published: 2016-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Course Excellent introduction to basic and some advanced civil engineering concepts. Dr. Ressler uses models and simplifies mathematical formulas to show how these structures work. Highly recommended for anyone with any interest in structures.
Date published: 2016-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course The professor is fabulous. His enthusiasm for the topic is contagious. He is very well organized; good demonstrations; great use of visual aids of several types. It is helpful that we both have a background in mathematics. It may be a little difficult to follow without at minimum of science, engineering, math competency. Such an interesting way to bring this subject to life. Great job.
Date published: 2016-01-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very good indeed! My perspective is that of one who has nearly no experience in, or aptitude for, the subject matter of this course: I definitely struggle with math and physics. I do have great interest in buildings, however, and thus my decision to try this course. I'm VERY glad I did. However, though otherwise excellent, the course fails to adequately address the important topic of foundations. (At least one earlier reviewer made the same comment.) I wish Professor Ressler had taught more specifically about this facet of buildings. Also, it required some effort and discipline on my part to get through the first several lectures--the ones introducing necessary points of math and physics. I knew they were necessary--and they seemed to be well presented--but I did not enjoy them as much as later lectures. In any event, nothing I have said here is meant to deter anyone from buying this course! I have watched/heard dozens of the Great Courses, and never have I been more satisfied that I learned something valuable. The professor does an excellent job of explaining things, and his demonstrations are outstanding. Overall, I found myself very interested and engaged. If you feel yourself bogging down in the early lectures, I advise you to persist. I found the latter lectures to be thoroughly interesting and educational. I am not the least bit sorry for having bought this course.
Date published: 2015-11-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Magnificent! Companion to his Greek/Roman class One of the best classes I have ever watched! (Probably #2 behind his other one, about engineering and structures of the Greek and Roman era). I previously purchased Professor Ressler's other class - which was the best class I have ever taken - so I could not wait to see this master of models and engineering instruction take on a wider subject matter. He did not disappoint! This class had a bit more math and geometry than the first one (don't worry - you don't need any interest or skill in math to enjoy it) but I found it effortless to follow along as I watched the entire thing over a series of workouts on a treadmill. Professor Ressler is in love with his subject matter, he makes everything easy to understand with a parade of custom computer and real-world models, and he is very good at explaining clearly how things work. There is no need for any engineering background at all. In fact, you don't have to be all that interested in civil engineering to enjoy this. My only regret was discovering that this class came out four years ago, and that I could have had four more years of my life understanding all the structures that I see in my daily life, and on vacations. If you have even the slightest interest in this topic, don't think - just go get this class. Hundreds of perfect ratings can't possibly be wrong, can they?
Date published: 2015-09-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Top of an Elite Class Amid the many wonderful courses offered by "The Great Courses," there are a handful that stand above the rest. Professor Ressler's "Understanding the World's Greatest Structures," and his second course called "Understanding Greek and Roman Technology" head that elite group. They are wonderful courses, clearly presented, well-paced, rich with detail and truly surprising in how much they inform and please a non-engineer. Professor Ressler teaches with passion and obvious knowledge. But more, he has constructed models and devised computer simulations that visually bring to life and make clear the ingenuity of those who made both ancient and modern bridges, buildings and other structures.
Date published: 2015-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from wonderful This is a wonderful course, I cannot remember a better Teaching Company course - Prof is at the Daniel Robinson level, which is my highest complement. I have watched it twice so far and am answering the homework questions. (By the way, you really want to do the homework to get the most benefit from any of the Great Courses.) This course does get into some pretty hard core science, and one homework problem had a statically indetermant structure, which I did not expect. This course is science and history - many lectures on ancient structure.. I am very glad to get a bit of liberal arts added to the engineering.
Date published: 2015-08-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Extraordinary; Wonderful; Superbly Taught Civil Engineering is fascinating, often stunningly so. Who knew? Certainly not me, until I took Professor Ressler's "Understanding Greek and Roman Technology," and now this course. Both have 5/5 ratings and 100% recommendations, an extraordinary record, but fully deserved. This course, in comparison with "Understanding Greek and Roman Technology," places somewhat more emphasis on the underlying engineering and scientific principles. For someone who loves science, like myself, this is a plus. Even if you don't, however, it is done so clearly and gently that I think you will consider it a strong positive. The majority of the course then applies these principles to an understanding of, well, many of the world's greatest structures, enabling us to peer beyond the aesthetics to appreciate just as deeply their structure and its function, and the remarkable innovations and imaginations which made these possible. I hasten to add - the beauty is also fully acknowledged; understanding the underlying structure and principles only enhances our appreciation. As for our professor, I can only repeat my comments from my review of his other course: Professor Ressler is remarkable. His boundless enthusiasm is fortunately matched by his knowledge, his organization, his straightforward eloquence, and his ability to explain a technical field in a way that is engaging, comprehensible, and actually makes you want to learn more. The computer simulations and the physical models which Professor Ressler has constructed himself are all wonderful and often stunning. This course has my highest recommendation for anyone with any intellectual curiosity, even if you don't have a prior interest in the subject. And, as a side benefit, it provides a deep appreciation for the extraordinary technical and engineering imagination and achievements of those who lived centuries to millenia ago, as well as for the continuing innovations to our own time.
Date published: 2015-07-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Picked this DVD up at my local library. Picked this DVD up by accident at my local library, not aware of any of the "Great Courses" materials. After watching all 24 lectures I sent the following via email, to Col. Stephen Ressler: I'm an environmental attorney nearing the end of a thirty eight year career with an MS in Environmental Science ( which helps in my understanding of the science and math I come across). Your dvd course on architectural structures bridges, etc., is so impressive in content and style, that, had I EVER had a prof with such a command and presentation as you demonstrate with such enthusiastic ease, I probably would have gone into engineering myself. Your contribution to learning is, by any standard simply remarkable. Lucky cadets.
Date published: 2015-06-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An excellent course! An excellent course; very good presentation by a very good lecturer. Definitely one of the best courses I've watched yet. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2015-06-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding This course may have set a record for 5-star ratings. I have a BS and MS degrees in engineering and Professor Ressler's visual presentation of the mechanics of structures is the best I have seen. The only thing I wish to add is customers buying courses like Professor Cook's 'The Cathedral' may want to do this course first to get an understanding of how those cathedrals were built before the advent of modern construction equipment.
Date published: 2015-06-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course to Learn to Appreciate Structures This is a great course to learn and appreciate structures and how they are used in ancient and modern constructions. Now when I look at buildings, spires, bridges and other structures, I now can recognize what they are and have they function. I highly recommend this course. I live in the Pacific NW and I am aware of “Galloping Gertie”. I have been across the replacement Tacoma Narrows Bridge many times. Professor Ressler is very reassuring in his explanation about why the original bridge failed and, more importantly, how the corrected the problem in the replacement bridge. I have also lived in St Louis. I have seen and traveled across the EADS Bridge. It is beautiful structure but did not realize that it was a ground breaking structure that used what used revolutionary building techniques for that era. We have a lot of floating bridges in the Pacific NW and it would have been nice if Professor Ressler could have discussed them. It would be increasing to understand some of the engineering associated with these structures. Floating bridges have some challenges and, unfortunately, they do sink occasionally. Perhaps, Professor Ressler will include floating bridges in his next set of lectures.
Date published: 2015-06-16
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