Skip navigation
Hardcover | $47.00 Short | £32.95 | ISBN: 9780262062596 | 472 pp. | 7 x 9 in | 92 illus.| November 2006
Paperback | $27.00 Short | £18.95 | ISBN: 9780262514156 | 472 pp. | 7 x 9 in | 92 illus.| January 2010

"“University Presses in Space” showcases a special sampling of the many works that university presses have published about space and space exploration."

Ships and Science

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


"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.

About the Author

Larrie D. Ferreiro is a naval architect and historian. He trained and worked as a naval architect in the U.S., British, and French navies and the U.S. Coast Guard, and has served as technical expert for the International Maritime Organization. He has a Ph.D. in the History of Science and Technology from Imperial College, London.


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

“Highly recommended.”—Choice

“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

“This volume should be required reading for all students of naval architecture.”—Marine Technology

"This volume should be required reading for all students of naval architecture". Marine Technology


"Naval architect and historian Larrie Ferreiro set out to understand the history of ship design in the West. He found the first half of the story encapsulated in the remarkable achievement of the French mathematician and astronomer Pierre Bouguer. Ferreiro uses Bouguer's seminal study, Trait

"Naval architecture has been a rarity among the sciences, having no written history worthy of the nameuntil 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

"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