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 327.
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
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Structures Explained Firstly, I was really happy with the content and all the things I learned from this course. Most of it will actually be useful in my work and vocations. I was impressed by the various formats used to help illustrate concepts. The models, animations an illustrations were usually quite effective. The instructor was engaging and usually was paced right. One thing I just didn't get and would appreciate getting some feedback. There was little or nothing said about foundations. It was made very clear that the weight of structures is of vital importance in many cases, so i had to wonder how many early attempts collapsed, that we may never know about, until the builders learned to prepare the ground to stand the weight. After all, structures that last testify to success, but we may never know what failures preceded them. It seems to me that at least one of the lectures should have been devoted to some of the basic, fundamental things a builder must know about the support below ground, since this is such a huge requirement for so many of the structures discussed.
Date published: 2015-06-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really outstanding If you have any interest in structural engineering (or just structures!), this is a superb course. It is easy to understand, the structures that are used as examples are excellent, and the presenter is enthusiastic and engaging. As people have said, the models are excellent. However, it was only when I saw my ten year old watching this course on his own that I really realised how effective the course is - easy enough for a 'mechanically aware' child to understand, but not simplistic for this adult who likes engineering as a hobby. Can we have another course from this presenter please?
Date published: 2015-05-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Helps us know what we're looking at. I have recommended this course to professionals in two fields, education and structural engineering. Professor Ressler has gone around the world selecting structures unique in appearance, but with common structural elements as their base. His selection ranges from the pyramids of Egypt to modern towers in Malaysia and Dubai. For each of the example structures, he explains the engineering basis for the primary structure. Making sure that everyone can understand the discussion, he begins by introducing the basic structural elements (columns, beams and arches) and stresses (compression, tension, and bending). The first few lessons in themselves are a respectable course in engineering mechanics, introduced in a beautiful intuitional manner that won't leave anyone behind. I hesitated to take this course. My first university degree was in civil engineering, with an emphasis on structures, and I really wondered if I would get anything from the course. The worry was misplaced and, I have to admit with a bit of chagrin, a bit arrogant. First, my university background had introduced me the the mathematical rigor of the structural systems, but none of the beauty, and without a deep understanding of, or feeling for, the the integration of the subsystems. This course gives the student the ability to look past the facade (or see it as part of the structure) and into the loads the building is supporting. I have recommended ths course to the architects I know, and would recommend it to a any professor teaching structures. Professor Ressler's models are things of beauty in their own right. They demonstrate the mechanics in a way that is obvious to the casual observer. I recommend this course, not only as a tool for learning the mechanics, but as a tour of some beautiful and wonderful structures around the world, and those you see will be seen in a new light.
Date published: 2015-05-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Course I have ever taken If you want to understand structures, this is the course to take. Professor R takes you to beautiful structures, from antiquity to current times and helps you to understand how they were designed and constructed. The math and formulas used were elementary and very well explained and the models made understanding the structures intuitive. this was a really fun and maximal education experience!
Date published: 2015-05-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course Others have written about the quality. I just wanted to add my affirmation and hallelujah. I loved the course and the professor. My only regret was the sadness I felt when it was finished. I see the structures around me in different ways and understand them better.
Date published: 2015-04-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful course Virtual and physical models and real world examples make this a tremendously helpful course for anyone who wants to better understand the man and woman made structures all around us.
Date published: 2015-03-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What a teacher! I had so many of the great courses lectures and most of them are fantastic, but this one is exceptional! The presentation is so interesting and very clear, and I salute the professor for such enjoyable experience. Thank you sir, you are one of a kind.
Date published: 2015-03-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Great Course Ever!!! This course is brilliant, the best I have seen among many Great Courses that I have taken over the years. I have never before written a review, but I felt compelled to tell others about this course, and I have already recommended it to my friends. Although nominally about the engineering principles of great structures, it is equally about art, history, and the progress of civilization. Professor Ressler shows a contagious love of engineering, but also a broad understanding of art, architecture, and cultural history. His skill and enthusiasm as a teacher bring the material to life. I am not an engineer or scientist, and I usually watch courses on arts and humanities, but (surprisingly to me) this course is the most dynamic and engaging that I have seen. The models built by Professor Ressler are incredibly compelling, bringing mathematical expressions into simple and understandable concepts. His presentation is dynamic and engaging - he is a natural teacher who makes structural engineering as compelling as a Broadway show. The knowledge I have gained from this course has re-framed the way I look at the world. On a recent trip to San Francisco, I saw the Golden Gate bridge in a totally new light, as I reflected on the lecture about suspension bridge disasters and the retrofitted road deck stabilizing truss. Thank you, Professor Ressler, for the incredible effort in preparing and presenting this course.
Date published: 2015-03-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Engineering Course Understanding the Worlds Greatest Structures:Science and Innovation from Antiquity to Modernity is an absolutely wonderfull course about Arches,Domes,Bridges and Skyscrapers.From the Ancient to the Ultra Modern.Every young person who wishes to become an Engineer would benefit greatly from this course and Professor Ressler would receive a flood of applications for his courses.Wonderfull course for everyone intersted in Stuctures and how they work.
Date published: 2015-03-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Perfect! This course was just what I've been looking for over the last 5 years! It is excellent! I truly enjoyed each minute of it. I am a high school math teacher who is also certified in physics. This is exactly what I wanted. The course does a great job of giving enough of the science to challenge me, yet not enough to bury me. I also really enjoyed the math questions in the book to work out.
Date published: 2015-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Way to Learn About Structural Engineering I knew a little about structural engineering and design,but I learned a lot more from this course, The use of famous structures through out history show the development of architecture as well as how the structures work. The models used show very clearly the principles being taught. The description of the engineering concepts are simple and easy to understand. You need no more math than multiplication and division to understand basic principles that support great structures from antiquity to today.
Date published: 2015-02-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 10 stars - All the praise is deserved I will echo ALL of the positive things said in other reviews, and add three things: 1) The last lecture was not over before I was looking for other courses by Professor Ressler. He is so very good at presenting potentially difficult material with seeming ease. His style and precise language are perfectly suited for the material. 2) I became engrossed in a subject that previously held only minor interested for me. The course had me digging out my college Statics textbook and appreciating it this time. 3) I will quite literally never look at the world the same way again. I will now notice every graceful tension member, every sturdy compression component. You might just catch me staring at the roof in my local warehouse store, appreciating the structural framework. If only one of these comments were true, the course could be considered a success. For all three to to apply shows you how much I LOVED this course. 10 stars indeed
Date published: 2015-02-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Seeing is Believing This course enhances the "wow" value of seeing these structures in person
Date published: 2015-02-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Splendid Course This is the note of thanks I sent to the Professor: Thank You so much for a wonderful contribution to my late life education ( I am 78). I have just finished your Understanding the World's Great Structures course for the second time. The first time through was quite informative. The second time was even better. When you consider that I am a retired JAG officer you know that you are working pretty much on a clean slate. The fact that I at least think I understood your course very well is much to your credit as an educator. Having done considerable teaching in my own field I can especially appreciate the splendid way you designed the program of instruction, and excellent use of models and pictures. Equally impressive is your highly professional teaching technique.
Date published: 2015-01-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great understanding of many world wide structures Very Good! The professor is clearly an expert in his field, explains many concepts very clearly. Many great models, many constructed right in front of the camera. Great photos of many examples. His speech is clear, no "um's" clear plain speech. Helps us understand many structures & how to understand even more that we might see. Highly recommend.
Date published: 2015-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course Excellent course. My inaugural Great Course and well worth the cost and time. Highly recommend it to anyone who works in any field requiring engineering knowledge or just if you're interested in how things are built and last. I would take any course that Dr. Ressler teaches.
Date published: 2015-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absorbing and educative Lectures These are a collection of engineering lectures that are not only instructive but as engrossing as watching any of Clint Eastwood's spaghetti westerns, I would say. The lectures are divided into two main subjects: old-fashioned and recent bridges on one hand and old buildings, edifices, temples, structures plus the modern ones on the other, the whole thing following a coherence worthy of a professional story teller. Ressler, by the use of models and/or prototypes of structures, pictures of the real thing and computer animations shows the relationship between stress and strain, truss, tension, cantilever, buckling, compression, force, arch, and cupola among other terms. These are actually a time-line of important discoveries and developments in the structural engineering of the world. If planning to take up a serious study of engineering and/or architecture these lectures might prove to be very useful. Highly recommended ............... NOTE; Ressler says the Egyptian pyramids were built 4,600 years ago, and that it took twenty years to erect the Great one. Yet NOBODY knows when those pyramids were built, actually the Who, When, How and Why of the Egyptians pyramids are an absolute mystery. Some people speculate they were built between 70,000 to 200,000 years ago, and so that it took 20 years to complete the project is only devil-may-care guessing, not a scientific fact.
Date published: 2015-01-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best of the Best During the time when I have been taking care of my (now) 83 year old father, a mostly retired geophysicist, I have shown him quite a few Teaching Company courses. He has been pleased with all of them, some more than others, but he has been far and away most enthusiastic about this one. He says the subject matter is fascinating, and actually expressed a little jealously over how much fun Professor Ressler obviously had building and playing with all those great models. He even actually counted the number of times Professor Ressler said "uh.." in the entire course (three times), as an example of how impressed he was with his lecturing style! I agree with all of the above. I recommend this course to other geologists, for one thing, because it makes it very clear that the concepts and techniques of modern structural geology were originally borrowed from structural engineering. Dr. Ressler's emphasis on a combination of scientific- and intuition-based engineering is exactly right, and just as true for earth science. At one point he said something to the effect of "it is critical to make the model fit reality, not reality fit the model." I couldn't agree more. Congratulations to Dr. Ressler and the Teaching Company on a job very well done. My father and I will be eagerly looking forward to his other courses!
Date published: 2015-01-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Extremely interesting with great demonstrations. Professor Ressler is wonderful at using great models to demonstrate the various concepts of stress, tension, etc. in explaining why some great engineering marvels have lasted for centuries while others have failed. He is very personable as well.
Date published: 2015-01-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Truly a great course! I'm not an architect, and my knowledge about structures was very basic (not to say "0") before I took this course. The presentation is great, the examples, images and musters are great. If you really want a great course and you want to see buildings and civil structures from a completely new perspective, no wonder this is your course!
Date published: 2015-01-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding. An exceptional course. Loved this course. Professor Ressler was thorough, and I felt he was so earnest in his desire for me to learn. The demonstrations using simple models is what made this course so understandable and enjoyable. For example, a model of how wire is spooled to make a suspension bridge. I subsequently visited the Brooklyn Bridge and appreciated (and actually noticed) how it was suspended; and looked for the anchorages (a concept entirely unknown to me prior). Then I went to the Golden Gate Bridge and read my notes on my iPhone exactly in the middle of the bridge. (Perhaps the way I lingered made the officials leery I was going to jump, ha ha). The demonstration on how load varies (by Professor Ressler moving weights or bending pieces of wood) made me appreciate the robust nature of the Firth of Forth Bridge in Edinburgh, and the mighty columns in the Duomo in Milan. My travels are more interesting because I look at buildings and bridges differently, and I actually put my hands on the structures. Oddly, a tactile appreciation of the world has been gained, and I remember this when I come home and look at my photos. I also sat on my deck and contemplated why it did not collapse, having learned some principles of load path. A brilliant course. Bravo.
Date published: 2014-12-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This course deserves a TEN STAR rating! We did NOT want these lectures to end! We learned so much and are already finding that we look at every bridge, tower, and building - real life or pictures - so differently. We want to learn so much more. This should be required for every aspiring architect and civil engineer - what an eye opener with easy to understand models and demonstrations. Anyone can understand these principles. All the other reviews have stated WHY this course was so excellent but we just had to add our two cents. What a wondrous time we have had - time well spent on learning. Thank you Dr. Ressler.
Date published: 2014-12-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A wonderful introduction to structural science I've always been mildly interested by structural engineering, although not enough to actually become an engineer-- I've always been more of an admirer. My dad was an iron and steel worker foreman most of his life and he owned many books on the subject of the world's structures, from antiquity to today. Once in awhile, I would find a title that sounded interesting and page through it. My dad was particularly interested in bridges, and I think that interest might have rubbed off on me, because I found Prof. Ressler's lectures on bridges particularly interesting and engaging. Prof. Ressler is an extremely engaging teacher, with a very approachable, even relaxed way of getting the information across-- I was never bored at any point in any of the lectures and that's unusual for me! I bought this course because I have always been interested in architecture and the science behind the buildings and bridges and I thought it would be interesting to know more about the underpinnings. I came out with a far greater appreciation of what engineers envision and design. I cannot recommend this course enough if you are even slightly interested in buildings and bridges-- I now have a greater appreciation and interest in both!
Date published: 2014-12-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant!! I've enjoyed many Great Courses over the past few years, but I do have to say that "Understanding the World's Greatest Structures: Science and Innovation from Antiquity to Modernity" has been one of the best by far. Prof. Ressler's presentation of engineering basics and his overview of the world's famous structures has changed the way I look at all bridges, buildings, and towers from now forward. Just this past weekend while driving into New York City I pulled over to the side of the New Jersey Turnpike to revel at the beauty of the Pulaski Skyway - a structure I never appreciated until now! (And yes, I can now identify it as a cantilever bridge too!). I've recommended this course to all my friends and I'm looking forward to Dr. Ressler's future courses with The Teaching Company. Thank you!
Date published: 2014-12-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Structurally Sound and Hard to Top All Reviewers give this course a 5 and recommend it to a friend. They are all correct. Dr. Ressler's course is the Platinum Standard for any Science, Math, or Engineering course offered by TGC. As others have said his passion for his subject, his delivery, and his accompanying models and other props make this a delightfully interesting course in structural engineering. People interested in both the artistic form of buildings, bridges and other structures as well as those people who are more interested in engineering mechanics will find this course quite satisfying; as will anyone in between. Dr. Ressler is unapologetic about diving into the mathematics of engineering mechanics which is refreshing. He does so in such a clear and straightforward way that anyone who has had basic algebra and can read a chart will have no trouble following along. Every concept discussed includes a detailed structural model for demonstration and typically one or more photographs of international structures from different eras with highlighting to illustrate the application of the structural concepts. Several well placed videos also help illustrate his points (I never tire of seeing the clip of the Tacoma narrows bridge collapse as it illustrates some very basic points of classical physics). Obviously Dr. Ressler worked well with the production team as the production quality is first rate. Judicious use is made of on screen text, side by side and picture in picture views. The accompanying course guidebook is equally outstanding. It contains high quality notes on each lecture, a timeline for construction of the various structures, a glossary, and a bibliography. The guidebook also has two outstanding features I have not seen in any of the other many TGC science/math courses I have taken. After each lecture there are a set of engineering problems and/or questions to consider which require the student to actually do the engineering calculations. Answers are included in the back of the guidebook. Also, there is a detailed multi-page table listing all the structures mentioned in the lectures chronologically with their design engineer, location and the importance to the advancement of structural engineering. Like many of the structures examined, this course is a masterpiece!! I not only strongly recommend this course to anyone with any interest in this area, I have already purchased Dr. Ressler's second TGC course.
Date published: 2014-10-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the Best This is easily one of the best courses I have taken with the Teaching Company. Even if you have never taken an engineering course Prof Ressler gives you enough background in statics and strength of materials to understand the principles of structure design. If you have taken statics and strength of materials it will refresh ideas you might have not thought about in years. I was sorry to see it end and look forward to taking his new course.
Date published: 2014-10-08
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