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Thread: william atkin's education

  1. #1
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    Default william atkin's education

    Hello Everybody,

    I wonder if anyone out there knows anything about William Atkin's education. I first encountered Atkin's book "Of Yachts and Men" in our town's library about the time in the early fifties when I was given my first sailboat. But I didn't really pay much attention to the book; it seemed to be about old fashioned boats that bored me (I was, after all only twelve) and men who I couldn't visualize. Some years later, when I was an undergraduate and beginning to develop an interest in yacht design, the book became of great and enduring interest. One thing that intrigued me then and continues to do so, is what sort of education Atkin had had. As some of you may remember from the book, "Of Yachts and Men," Atkin designed the rather huge (cylinder bore 8 inches, stroke 14 inches!) V8 gasoline motors for the 115 ft express cruiser "Cabrilla" which Atkin's (and Cot Wheeler's) firm also built when Atkin was about 32. So my question is, how on earth did Atkin who was, according to Weston Farmer, a seventh grade drop out, come to know the engineering necessary for designing large, 750 hp gasoline motors? Yacht design has long been filled with mostly self trained designers (Ted Hood, Ray Hunt, and Olin Stephens spring to mind), but the mechanical engineering necessary for gasoline motor design typically requires more formal training. At the turn of the twentieth century, it was possible to study almost anything by correspondence course. As just one example, ICS (the International Correspondence School) certainly offered training in Mechanical, Civil, Electrical, and Mining Engineering (as well as Law, Chemistry, etc.). And there were other such schools. Does anyone out there know if Atkin studied at any of the correspondence schools? Or what?

    It really just an old curiosity of mine...perhaps we can write it off as the kind of thing that old, retired college professors occupy their dotage with.

    Happy New Year to you all.

    Cheers,
    John

  2. #2
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    Default Re: william atkin's education

    Have you asked Pat Atkin? Didn’t he grow up in Montclair? Great public schools there. Only 7th grade?

  3. #3
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    Default Re: william atkin's education

    Quote Originally Posted by jpaz View Post
    ... the mechanical engineering necessary for gasoline motor design typically requires more formal training.
    That's a misconception. The information is all out there. A formal education may be faster and more organized (or it may not be) but the value people currently place on a degree is in error.

    For another example, a friend of mine was in charge of optics at JPL on several missions. I think Voyager was his last one ? Or maybe Galileo. He and Jim Westphal were instrumental in making ccd's work. Pretty sure you've heard of them. He had no degree. High school was it.

    There was a time when people cared what you could do more than what certificate you had. I believe that the importance of a certificate is inversely related to the talent of the people doing the hiring. The number of people with degrees who don't have a clue is vast. For instance, look around here : people with fifty thousand dollars in tools are happy as heck to do in six months what a guy with a sixth-grade education did better in two weeks fifty years ago. With an axe

    The real education is in doing things.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: william atkin's education

    That's a misconception. The information is all out there.
    A lot of dis-information as well unfortunately

  5. #5

    Default Re: william atkin's education

    "Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.".........Albert Einstein

    I think what he means by this is that education is what you really understand and have the ability to utilize after the seed of curiosity begins to sprout, starting to develop a unique entity that can be productive and contribute to the world around it in its own way. A formal education in a profession only creates a picture frame that is filled in as you later proceed through life.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: william atkin's education

    Atkin may well have overseen the design of the engine, specifying what characteristics were required and delegating the details to engineers and metallurgists and machinists. " Designed," can have several meanings and context blurs in the wash of time ( and public relations )



    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

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    Default Re: william atkin's education

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Bowdidge View Post
    A lot of dis-information as well unfortunately
    I don't use wikipedia or internet forums for anything but amusement

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    Default Re: william atkin's education

    Quote Originally Posted by Favorite View Post
    I don't use wikipedia or internet forums for anything but amusement
    That's a very bold statement.....esp. on this forum ;o)

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    Default Re: william atkin's education

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew2 View Post
    That's a very bold statement.....esp. on this forum ;o)
    As in the rest of life, there are some people you learn to trust here and some who just talk. The trick is in figuring out to which camp people belong

  10. #10
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    Default Re: william atkin's education

    Good call on your part John! "Of Yachts and Men" is one of the first books I acquired for my boating library. The first two was the double volume set of "The Common Sense of Yacht Design" by L. Francis Herreshoff. While I have many other books in my collection those three have always been my favorites. Both authors have the ability to spark the creativity drawn from intuition in the minds of their readers! That is what is most important as time does not stand still! Only those who close their minds to new concepts are the loosers.
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 01-01-2019 at 05:39 PM.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: william atkin's education

    Well, I suppose one might not need to look any further to distinguish the difference between a technical college degree and a seventh grade education than to compare the careers of Nathaniel Greene Herreshoff and John Atkin. Both were artists with an eye for form which followed function, Atkin started with the form, while Herreshoff started with the function. Atkin, bless his heart for the wonderful collection of practical craft he left us, wasn't even in Nat Herreshoff's zip code. R.D. ("Pete") Culler, although I believe he had a college education, wasn't a trained naval architect either, yet he also left us a wonderful collection of good straightforward boats. He, like Atkin, was a graduate of the "If it looks good, it is good." school. N.G. Herreshoff belonged to the "If it goes fast, it is good." school. His son, L.Francis Herreshoff, who couldn't hold a candle to his MTI-trained father as a mechanical engineer, nonetheless was in his own right one of the greatest naval architects of all time. His work was distinguished by his good eye for beauty. His naval architecture and mechanical training seems to have been picked up by osmosis, growing up in his father's world. L.F.H. went to college and got a degree in agriculture and then failed as a farmer before returning home with his tail between his legs to join the family trade.

    There's a world of difference between a Nineteenth Century seventh grade education and a Twenty-first Century seventh grade education. We've suffered a lot of "educational inflation" over the years. So, just remember, when you hear how Thomas Edson only had a couple of months of formal schooling and read self-education books (popular at the time) while he worked as a telegraph operator, it was a different world out there back then. Today, save a few famous exceptions, the ceiling is pretty low without at least a college degree, if not a graduate degree. I know Bill Gates dropped out of college, but as the man said, "You, Sir, are no Bill Gates." Few of us are.
    Last edited by Bob Cleek; 01-02-2019 at 05:14 PM.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: william atkin's education

    Hello Jay Greer, My copy of LFH's "The Common Sense..." was about the third book on yacht design that I bought for myself (my parents had given me all of Uffa Fox's books while I was in high school...I was, I suppose, a spoilt child). That set was used so much that it now is only held together with tattered tape. I treasure an evening spent sipping scotch with LFH in his Castle on Crocker Park. He thought my name (which is long, and Baltic but not Slavic), "curious!" And, so, I suppose it is.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: william atkin's education

    My first boat design book was "Thirty Easy-to-Build Sail Boats with Auxiliary Power," volume XV of Motor Boating's Ideal Series. I think I bought it at the New York Boat Show about 1953, when I was 11. The designs were mostly by Billy Atkin, and my infatuations rotated among them for many years (though the concept of "easy-to-build" has surely evolved). My library now contains books by and about Atkin, Herreshoff, Fox, Chapelle, Bolger, Farmer, Culler, Rhodes, Alden, Griffiths, and others, so this thread echoes many of my thoughts, including the question of Atkin's education.

    "Of Yachts and Men" is a charming book, beginning with an idyllic vignette of childhood and leaping into the romance of a young yacht designer's budding career and courtship. It's more of an evocation of scenes than an autobiography, so the gaps are frustrating, but one has to admire the courage of a young man who seized destiny by the forelock. Besides wondering how he acquired the skill and confidence to design such an immense variety of sail, oar, and power boats (and engines), I was always curious how he learned to write so effectively. As much as on the technical quality of his designs or their draftsmanship, his success was due to a talent for capturing the ideal of a life engaged in building and sailing boats that entranced an enormous number of readers.
    Peter Belenky

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