Santa Monica CA

When I graduated in May 1995, academic jobs were scarce and I was somewhat burned out, a recurring problem I have had in life. My sister-in-law, Miriam Kouzel Billington, helped me find a small apartment in Santa Monica, California, where I am now living. I devoted the next nine months to improving my computer skills.

In June 1996 I participated with my father in an experimental program at New York University to develop a prototype CD for educational use. This used content from a slide-lecture course that my father gave at Princeton University on the engineering of the last two centuries. In October 1996, a foundation gave him some funding to produce a CD and I got part of the work. I cannot say that my aptitude for multimedia authoring was equal to my aptitude for research, and we were very fortunate that a small multimedia firm in Seattle, Mindsai, helped us to finish the project in the spring of 1998.

Over the next two decades, I worked mainly for my father doing research and writing in support of the slide-lecture course, one of two that he taught (and later co-taught with other faculty) until his retirement in 2013. I also co-authored a book with him, Power Speed and Form, in 2006 that explains the great innovations of the late 1800s and early 1900s (eg. telephone, electric power, automobiles, aviation). This was a sequel to The Innovators, a book that he wrote in 1996 on the first hundred years of American engineering.

In 2020 I completed a sequel of my own, From Insight to Innovation, to bring the story up to the present. I also wrote an engineering history of the Golden Gate Bridge for the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District. The aim of these books is to make key technical events accessible in engineering terms without calculus. I am grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities and to the National Science Foundation for grants to me that helped to underwrite this work.

My dissertation is also now in print (although priced only for libraries). I continue to have an interest in other kinds of history but my principal calling has been to disseminate the methods and content of my dad's teaching and to contribute through my own writing and research.

Here is a photo of me and my two nieces, Zoe and Francesca, sister-in-law Miriam, and sister Sarah.

Update 2023: Since my mother's passing in 2016 and my father's in 2018, I have been making an inventory of my father's papers to donate to an archive. My sister Elizabeth is preserving recordings and papers of my mother's career as a pianist. I also inherited some old papers from my namesake, the first David Billington, who was a Union officer in the Civil War. I hope to transcribe these.

Go back to Main Page