To Engineer is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design

Front Cover
Vintage Books, 1992 - Science - 251 pages
51 Reviews
How did a simple design error cause one of the great disasters of the 1980s -- the collapse of the walkways at the Kansas City Hyatt Regency Hotel? What made the graceful and innovative Tacoma Narrows Bridge twist apart in a mild wind in 1940? How did an oversized waterlily inspire the magnificent Crystal Palace, the crowning achievement of Victorian architecture and engineering? These are some of the failures and successes that Henry Petroski, author of the acclaimed The Pencil, examines in this engaging, wonderfully literate book. More than a series of fascinating case studies, To Engineer Is Human is a work that looks at our deepest notions of progress and perfection, tracing the fine connection between the quantifiable realm of science and the chaotic realities of everyday life. Book jacket.

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Surprisingly interesting, despite fairly dry prose. - Goodreads
I did not like the writing style. - Goodreads
He tried to humanize engineering with folksy banter. - Goodreads

Review: To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design

User Review  - Ashley - Goodreads

If you want to understand more how engineers think and what kind of work they actually do, this is a good starting point. It is also a very informative history of design and failure. Read full review

Review: To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design

User Review  - Thomas Kent - Goodreads

Excellent stories. I use tis material regularly. Read full review

About the author (1992)

Henry Petroski is an American engineer with wide-ranging historical and sociocultural interests. He earned a Ph.D. in theoretical and applied mechanics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1968, and became Aleksandar S. Vesic professor and chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Duke University. Petroski teaches traditional engineering subjects, as well as courses for nonengineering students, that place the field in a broad social context. One of the major themes that transcends his technical and nontechnical publications is the role of failure and its contribution to successful design. This is the central theme in his study To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design, which is accessible to both engineers and general readers. This theme is also incorporated into Petroski's The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance (1990), which relates the history of the pencil to broader sociocultural themes. The theme is expanded further, illustrating the relationship of engineering to our everyday life in The Evolution of Useful Things (1992). Petroski's most recent book, Design Paradigms: Case Histories of Error and Judgment in Engineering, is planned for publication in 1994. After that, he will begin a study of the complex interrelationships between engineering and culture. Widely recognized and supported by both the technical and humanities communities, Petroski's work has effectively conveyed the richness and essence of engineering in its societal context for the general reader.

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