The Institution's Library (also home to the Archive) has changed little on the face of it but in actual fact we do offer modern services such as a virtual library and archive. Drawing by Sydney R Jones. Christmas 1953.

BOOK REVIEW: Internal Combustion Engine Design

This month we have a book review by Institution Member, David Andrews (Member of the IMechE Engineering Heritage Awards Committee). David reviews the highly detailed book, Internal Combustion Engine Design, written by former Ricardo Chief Designer, John Manning. In this review, David highlights the essence of this book, which is the importance of engineering design and engine designers.

Engine Design book cover
Engine Design book cover

“Machines are made by machines. Engineers are made by engineers. Pick a piece of engineering, the most cutting edge you can think of. A spacecraft or a particle accelerator. It was made using machines, made on multi axis machining centres or with injection moulding equipment. Those machines in turn were made by other, older machines. Trace that family tree of machine tools back and back and wherever you start it will take through Joseph Whitworth’s workshop, to Henry Maudslay’s lathe and Joseph Bramah’s press. In the same way younger engineers learn by working alongside older ones, and even older engineers were young and green once, being taught by those now retired or passed away. Gems of wisdom are passed on from generation to generation. That family tree of engineering education could be followed back to the famous Victorian engineers and many anonymous craftsmen, back to 18th Century Black Country workshops and back further still to the Elizabethan ironworks of the Forest of Dean and the Sussex Weald. Engineering is a culture and has a heritage that is passed from father to son. We all borrow information from the older generation and to repay the debt we have the pleasure and the privilege of passing it on to the younger generation along with anything else we have learnt through bitter or sweet experience. John Manning has done just that with his book Internal Combustion Engine Design. Shakespeare’s Hamlet talks about “the book and volume of my brain” and Manning has taken the contents of the book and volume of his mind and put it into 650 pages of paper.

Thankfully one element of this book is that it stresses the importance of engineering design and engine designers. There are many books about Internal Combustion Engines that focus on combustion but little is said about design. Manning also describes in detail the interactions between the different components and systems that make an engine. The book is full of lists; checklists of things to consider for each part of the engine, lists of critical design features, lists of advantages and disadvantages of different solutions, lists of possible materials for each component and so on. Most importantly these are accompanied by frequent illustrations that help to explain the different design choices; graphs, schematics, line drawings and photographs. This is the commonplace book of a lifetime in engine design.

Finally, this large volume also reminds us of the relevance of libraries. I try not to talk about the future of libraries, if only because I hate to see a grown librarian cry. But what is their use now books are cheaper in physical form and widely available online? This large volume cannot (I think) be found online and is rather too expensive for an engineer to buy for their personal use (nor would you want to drop it on your foot). So it is a perfect book for a library to have and it is there for you to find at Birdcage Walk.”

Manning, John. 2012. Internal combustion engine design, Ricardo.

Library from above
Library from above

Institution members can borrow this book from the Library. Request this book.

Archive, Institution of Mechanical Engineers



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