Ships and Science

From Transformations: Studies in the History of Science and Technology

Ships and Science

The Birth of Naval Architecture in the Scientific Revolution, 1600-1800

By Larrie D. Ferreiro

The first book to portray the birth of naval architecture as an integral part of the Scientific Revolution, examining its development and application across the major shipbuilding nations of Europe.





The first book to portray the birth of naval architecture as an integral part of the Scientific Revolution, examining its development and application across the major shipbuilding nations of Europe.

"Naval architecture was born in the mountains of Peru, in the mind of a French astronomer named Pierre Bouguer who never built a ship in his life." So writes Larrie Ferreiro at the beginning of this pioneering work on the science of naval architecture. Bouguer's monumental book Traité du navire (Treatise of the Ship) founded a discipline that defined not the rules for building a ship but the theories and tools to predict a ship's characteristics and performance before it was built. In Ships and Science, Ferreiro argues that the birth of naval architecture formed an integral part of the Scientific Revolution. Using Bouguer's work as a cornerstone, Ferreiro traces the intriguing and often unexpected development of this new discipline and describes its practical application to ship design in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Drawing on previously untapped primary-source and archival information, he places the development of naval architecture in the contexts of science, navy, and society, across the major shipbuilding nations of Britain, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, and Italy.

Ferreiro describes the formulation of the three major elements of ship theory (the science of explaining the physical behavior of a ship): maneuvering and sail theory, ship resistance and hydrodynamics, and stability theory. He considers the era's influential books on naval architecture and describes the professionalization of ship constructors that is the true legacy of this period. Finally, looking from the viewpoints of both the constructor and the naval administrator, he explains why the development of ship theory was encouraged, financed, and used in naval shipbuilding. A generous selection of rarely seen archival images accompanies the text.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262062596 472 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 92 illus.


$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262514156 472 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 92 illus.


  • Ships and Science is a meticulously researched, scholarly book...Any maritime historian or maritime architecture scholar should benefit from reading this erudite, thought-provoking book.

    Louis Arthur Norton

    The Northern Mariner

  • This volume should be required reading for all students of naval architecture.

    Marine Technology

  • This is a superb volume, and is likely to be regarded in coming years as the starting point of the now fast growing study of the foundations of applied science and engineering.

    Fred M. Walker

    Mariner's Mirror

  • Highly recommended.



  • The history of naval architecture is a fascinating adventure. Ferreiro's book takes the reader on a journey through time, exploring how the science and engineering developed. A myriad of topics are included such as the important prerequisite of stability. It is a marvelous voyage of discovery, written in a very readable manner which will appeal to all, from the curious to those of us actively practicing the profession.

    Stephen M. Payne

    OBE, Vice President and Chief Naval Architect, Carnival Corporate Shipbuilding, designer of the Queen Mary 2

  • Naval architecture has been a rarity among the sciences, having no written history worthy of the name—until now. In this book, Larrie Ferreiro has produced a work worthy of the discipline he has practiced and studied with equal ability. For the first time the many and varied theoretical and practical traditions of European ship design have been analyzed as part of the scientific and intellectual world in which they developed. The result is a work of the highest importance, linking science, ships, and sea power.

    Andrew Lambert

    Laughton Professor of Naval History, King's College London

  • This important book offers counterpoint to Kenneth Alder's Engineering the Revolution. With great skill and imagination, Langins exploits an eighteenth-century controversy over fortification design to illuminate the nature of engineering, the tension between theory and practice, the contrast between the lone genius and institutionalized professionalism, and the relationship between engineering and revolution.

    Alex Roland

    Professor of History, Duke University