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

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Paperback, 251 pages
Vintage Books, 1992
First Vintage Books Edition, Eighth Printing

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.

Editorial Reviews

"Reading Petroski's fine book is not only a delight, it is a necessity." --Houston Chronicle

"Serious, amusing, probing, sometimes frightening, and always literate." --Los Angeles Times

 "Alert, inquisitive, unspecialized, wholly human...refreshingly eclectic." --The Spectator

"Henry Petroski is an ardent engineer, and if he writes more good books like this, he might find himself nominated to become the meistersinger of the engineering straightforward as an I-beam." --Science

About the Author

Henry Petroski is the Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and a professor of history at Duke University. The author of more than a dozen previous books, he lives in Durham, North Carolina, and Arrowsic, Maine.