Enter your mobile number below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
Excel 2016 For Dummies Video Training
Discover what Excel can do for you with self-paced video lessons from For Dummies. Learn more.
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
Discover books for all types of engineers, auto enthusiasts, and much more. Learn more
Top Customer Reviews
I, too, found the repetitive references to a limited number of examples tiring; I suspect this was done because Petroski had prior knowledge of these case studies and wished to minimize his research by drawing on what he knew about before writing. As an amateur historian of technology, I was also disappointed that few earlier historical examples were treated in any depth, the Crystal Palace being a notable exception.
The book is an easy read. Henry Petroski's prose is easy to grasp and flows well, holding the reader's interest, despite the repetition.
To engineer is to design, `making something that has not existed before'. Petroski provides insights into the design process (which involves computers extensively nowadays) and its limitations, and also the means employed by engineers to prevent failures in their designs.
He emphasizes, however, that it is not possible to anticipate all possible ways a design can fail and thus failures inevitably occur because engineers are, after all, humans. Numerous examples of catastrophic structural failures throughout history are presented and discussed. All involved the tragic loss of lives (for instance, the collapse of two crowded suspended walkways onto the crowded floor of the Kansas City Hyatt Regency hotel in 1981) except the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows bridge in Washington State in 1940.
Petroksi also discusses the failure analysis or forensic engineering that is performed in the wake of a catastrophic design failure to understand how and why the failure occurred. He argues convincingly throughout the book that understanding such design failures can advance engineering more than successes. Design failures, like other failures in life, should be embraced, rather than denied or ignored, and learned from. Great engineers, and great people in general, are the ones who heed George Santayana's famous dictum: `Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.'
The real interest in this book are the analyses of various disasters that should have been planned for, but weren't.
The most terrible engineering disaster (and the reason I bought this book) was the collapse of the sky walkway in a hotel in Kansas City in the 1980's. I was just returning from KC when I heard the horrific news on the radio. The skyway collapsed during a dance, killing hundreds and injuring more in a dreadful disaster. I was very upset by this terrible event. Why did this happen?
The explanation in "To Engineer Is Human" is really brilliant; the walkway was designed "properly" with a bolt that went through the beam supporting it. But it could not be built as designed because the bolt couldn't be installed in the vertical support. Instead, the builders split the vertical support into two parts in order to install two bolts, and each part was then able to move independently, causing a shear force that eventually led to the disaster. A brilliant analysis and one that showed that despite correct design, the plan must be able to be implemented to work--or else the execution of the plan may doomed to disastrous failure.
That lesson is really important when you are engineering anything, even software. You may specify an important feature, but if the R&D department cannot implement the plan, the product may fail to meet its goals, even be defective.
The book is a bit "thin"--I wanted more and wished it were longer and had more detail, but I will say it makes its point and memorably so. After reading it, your eyes will be opened to how things are designed, how things fail and how engineering affects our lives.
of the sky ? Even though since the start of the industrial revolution the
relative number of disastrous accidents has gone down, it is still a daily
Some great examples are given (most prominently the walkway of a Houston
hotel that collapsed during the opening ceremony) with pictures and detailed
analysis. Great stuff even for non civil-engineers since with some
imagination you may learn some more general design lessons.
The editorial side of the book is less impressing, most facts and
interpretations are repeated 3 or 4 times throughout the book (excluding the
introduction and back flap) so I never got further than 3 quarters into it,
preventing myself from another deja vu.
In any way, a veryimportant and useful read.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Still relevant today.
After all these years the book is in need of a rewrite. Some of the mysteries have been revealed. Read more
I enjoyed this book as I have every other book that Perroski has written.Published 11 months ago by Edmond M Koury
Really applies only to civil engrs. Gets dull after a while.Published 16 months ago by Amazon Customer
The book by Henry Petroski taught me important notions: designs constantly evolve to structures bigger, more elegant, more efficient, more economical. Read morePublished 18 months ago by F. G. Nobrega
loved reading about all this history = henry petroski is the man!Published 19 months ago by Virginia Braley
Great book that I make all my young engineers read when they are straight out of college.Published 21 months ago by Dennis J Doherty