JF Ptak Science Books Post 137
Because strait is the gate, and narrow
is the way which leadeth vnto life,
and few there be that finde it.
And so it came, somehow, to be that E.S. Wheeler, president of the austere and august Association of Engineering Societies, presented a paper at its annual meeting in June 1908, on building an exact replica of the great pyramid of Gizeh. I suspected that because of the intentionally fantastoid title that Mr. Wheeler intended the paper as a show, exhibition, to the younger engineers in the audience about how one might approach an unusual engineering problem, as an imaginative course of instruction. That would be quite nice.
Except though that Wheeler presented the paper as though he was serious. He delivered it evidently with a high dryness, and people took him seriously.
The pyramid was to be built on the site of the village of Cadillac (of 1701), in central Detroit, occupying that site and then some, covering it with 13 square acres of stone. Oh, yes, and it was also to be excavated, scooped first into a shockingly cavernous prism 759’ on each side and 120’ deep, or about 2.6 million cubic yards of stuff.
The pyramid itself was to be built almost entirely of limestone, 760’ on each side, and 485’ high, set on the 13 acre base—where those 13 acres in the center of Detroit was left open to debate. Wheeler also intended to reproduce the interior of the pyramid as well (so far as it was known in 1908), and had a set of plans to accomplish that goal.
Wheeler figured that the material cost (exclusive of the base), would be $36,000,000 1908 dollars, which he considered a fair price. The conclusion of his paper was a superb slash of logic and possibilities—he calculated that if each person in the United States contributed the equivalent of a day’s labor on the building of the pyramid, that the great structure could be built in a day and a half. Wheeler closes with this superior gem, a sentence unlikely to be repeated in any subsequent technical journal” “If the United States should stop all other work and devote itself entirely to building pyramids, as was probably the case in Egypt, it would, after it got fairly running, be able to turn out two every three days.