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

Henry Petroski

Retail Price: $14.95
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Format: Paperback, 272pp.
ISBN: 9780679734161
Publisher: Vintage
Pub. Date: March 31, 1992

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Item No: 9780679734161

Description and Reviews
From The Publisher:

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.

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About the Author

Henry Petroski is Professor of Civil Engineering at Duke University.

Table of Contents

1Being Human1
2Falling Down is Part of Growing up11
3Lessons From Play; Lessons From Life Appendix: "The Deacon's Masterpiece"35
4Engineering as Hypothesis40
5Success is Foreseeing Failure53
6Design is Getting From Here to There64
7Design as Revision75
8Accidents Waiting to Happen85
9Safety in Numbers98
10When Cracks Become Breakthroughs107
11Of Bus Frames and Knife Blades122
12Interlude: The Success Story of the Crystal Palace136
13The Ups and Downs of Bridges158
14Forensic Engineering and Engineering Fiction172
15From Slide Rule to Computer: Forgetting How it Used to be Done189
16Connoisseurs of Chaos204
17The Limits of Design216
List of Illustrations
I. Cartoons illustrating public concern over engineering failures
II. Models of the ubiquitous cantilever beam
III. The Brooklyn Bridge: Anticipating failure by the engineer and by the layman
IV. The Crystal Palace: Testing the galleries and finding them sound
V. The Crystal Palace and two of its modern imitators
VI. Suspension bridges: The Tacoma Narrows and after
VII. The Kansas City Hyatt Regency walkways collapse
VIII. The Mianus River Bridge collapse and its aftermath

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