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

To Engineer is Human
by Henry Petroski

Random House Inc.
Bibliography; Index


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Here is a gem of a book. Engineering professor Petroski raises the concept that past failure in engineering design is the handmaiden of future success and innovation. He discusses some monumental failures--like the collapse of elevated walkways in a Kansas City hotel--and shows how they led engineers to advance their art to meet new needs. One chapter declares, "Falling Down is part of Growing Up." His examples are mostly the honest-mistake kind, and not the sloppy design and testing, for instance, that results in recalls of new autos. But in marvelously clear prose, he gives valuable insight into the limits of engineering and its practitioners. A fine book for general and history-of-technology collections alike.

--Reviewed by Daniel LaRossa in Library Journal, 110 (September 1 1985), p. 206.