Secret Subway
by Martin W. Sandler

Price at time of review: $17.95
96 pp.
National Geographic Society
Washington, DC
ISBN: 978-1426304620

Grade Level: 5-8

Reviewed by CBC Reviewer

This book describes how one man with a vision built the first subway in New York City. Readers will be drawn in by descriptions of the really horrific traffic in New York City in the nineteenth century—a time when wagons, horses, and throngs of people made just crossing the street a life-threatening experience.

Alfred Beach was the owner of Scientific American, an inventor, and a supporter of other inventors. He not only took on the challenge of designing and financing a system that might have alleviated the chaotic transportation systems of his times but he also fought the infamous political machine of Tammany Hall. He had to build his prototype subway in secret because he refused to bribe the political powers that ran the city. His "pneumatic tube" illustrated a new type of engineering, even though it never went beyond a single station and a single car.

This revealing story not only shows how fascinating engineering is but also makes clear the importance of the interplay between science and culture. There are sources for further reading and an index in this NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book for 2010.

Review posted on 2/8/2010

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