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Design Paradigms: Case Histories of Error and Judgment in Engineering [Paperback]

Henry Petroski
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 27 1994 0521466490 978-0521466493
From classical temples to twentieth century towers, engineers have learned more about design from failure than from success. The concept of error, according to the author of Design Paradigms, is central to the design process. As a way of explaining the enduring aspects of engineering design, Henry Petroski relates stories of some of the greatest engineering successes and failures of all time. These case studies, drawn from a wide range of times and places, from Ancient Greece and Rome to modern America, serve as paradigms of error and judgment in engineering design. By showing how errors were introduced in the design process and how they might be avoided, the book suggests how better quality and reliability might be achieved in designed devices, structures, and systems of all kinds. Clearly written, with striking illustrations, the book will appeal to engineering students, practicing engineers, historians of science and technology, and all those interested in learning about the process of design.

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"This book is now on my list of required reading for all engineering students." IEEE Spectrum

"...draws on examples from the 4th century BC onwards to identify common features in engineering failures, and offers guidance on how to avoid failure while encouraging innovation...extremely well documented and illustrated...can be read by all those interested in engineering, not just structural engineers." New Scientist

"...nicely done and the case for using engineering history to comprehend the nature of design is well made...the general reader will be well served, especially because the case histories are so interesting and well presented in themselves..." Nature

"...Petroski makes the case for investigating classic and historical case studies rather than recent design failures, the analysis of which is often complicated by ongoing litigation and distortions or, even more critically, by court-imposed secrecy...provides a cogent argument for reintroducing engineering history..." Robert Mark, School of Architecture, Princeton University, Science

"...should be required reading for all engineering students and all practicing design professionals..." Journal of the Performance of Constructed Facilities

"...discusses several models to explain how errors are introduced in design and how designers can prevent similar mistakes from occurring. Case studies present historic and recent examples of engineering failures..." Civil Engineering

"...the anecdotal nature of the paradigms presented is intended to evoke associations with the real situations in which designers find themselves every day." Mechanical Engineering

"...students of all branches of engineering can learn from the case studies presented. Not only engineering students but also practicing engineers will learn from the book." Choice

"The intention of Petroski's book is to present an incontrovertible paradigmatic argument for the value of case histories, ranging from the ancient to the modern, in illuminating and elucidating the causes and results of human error in the design process, mostly of structures. The further stories, including those about many well-known bridge failures, will prove fascinating and intelligible to the non-technical reader." Times Higher Education Supplement

"Highly recommended." ASME International

Book Description

From classical temples to twentieth century towers, engineers have learned more about design from failure than from success. By showing how errors were introduced and how they might be avoided, this book suggests how better design quality and reliability may be achieved.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The concept of failure is central to design process, and it is by thinking in terms of obviating failure that successful designs are achieved. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Towards More Successful Development Nov. 24 1997
By Karen
I came across this title while researching the parallels between traditional professional engineering and systems engineering. Petroski makes a compelling case for us to formally study our failures in systems engineering - not for laying blame, but in order to continually improve our processes, assumptions, beliefs, methods, and thinking patterns. Using case studies from bridge building, ship building, and other construction feats, Petroski show us how errors in scalability, design changes, selective use of history, logic, and human factors can lead to disasterous consequences. If you care about public safety and want to see any industry progress to a real level of professionalism, read and study this work.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Cannot write Oct. 25 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This author is mired in academic verbiage, and ruins an interesting story that might be worth a chapter in a better book
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By Chris
I've seen this book recommended from various sources but only recently picked up a copy for myself. I wish I had done so earlier! It does not contain anything novel and can be quite repetitive at times. But then again, I feel like that is essentially the message of the book. The author presents many examples throughout history where Engineers have forgotten the lessons of the past and proceeded to make the same mistakes (or different mistakes for the same reasons).

The book itself is very easy to read and provides several essential lessons for Engineers in any discipline. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Engineering design or the history of Engineering (specifically it's failures!).
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