Invention by Design: How Engineers Get from Thought to Thing

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Harvard University Press, 1996 - Technology & Engineering - 242 pages
2 Reviews

Henry Petroski's previous bestsellers have delighted readers with intriguing stories about the engineering marvels around us, from the lowly pencil to the soaring suspension bridge. In this book, Petroski delves deeper into the mystery of invention, to explore what everyday artifacts and sophisticated networks can reveal about the way engineers solve problems.

Engineering entails more than knowing the way things work. What do economics and ecology, aesthetics and ethics, have to do with the shape of a paper clip, the tab of a beverage can, the cabin design of a turbojet, or the course of a river? How do the idiosyncrasies of individual engineers, companies, and communities leave their mark on projects from Velcro to fax machines to waterworks?Invention by Design offers an insider's look at these political and cultural dimensions of design and development, production and construction.

Readers unfamiliar with engineering will find Petroski's enthusiasm contagious, whether the topic is the genesis of the Ziploc baggie or the averted collapse of Manhattan's sleekest skyscraper. And those who inhabit the world of engineering will discover insights to challenge their customary perspective, whether their work involves failure analysis, systems design, or public relations. Written with the flair that readers have come to expect from his books, Invention by Design reaffirms Petroski as the master explicator of the principles and processes that turn thoughts into the many things that define our made world.

 

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INVENTION BY DESIGN: How Engineers Get from Thought to Thing

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

A look at the engineering principles behind ordinary objects and processes by the author of the bestsellers The Evolution of Useful Things (1992) and The Pencil (1989). Petroski is, essentially, a ... Read full review

Invention by design: how engineers get from thought to thing

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Petroski (The Pencil, LJ 3/1/90) has done much to make the nerdy world of engineering interesting and accessible to the reader. Here, he's after a different audience, one interested in the philosophy ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction
1
Paper Clips and Design
8
Pencil Points and Analysis
43
Zippers and Development
66
Aluminum Cans and Failure
89
Facsimile and Networks
104
Airplanes and Computers
120
Water and Society
141
Bridges and Politics
160
Buildings and Systems
188
References and Further Reading
217
Illustration Credits
229
Index
231
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About the author (1996)

Henry Petroski is an American engineer with wide-ranging historical and sociocultural interests. He earned a Ph.D. in theoretical and applied mechanics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1968, and became Aleksandar S. Vesic professor and chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Duke University. Petroski teaches traditional engineering subjects, as well as courses for nonengineering students, that place the field in a broad social context. One of the major themes that transcends his technical and nontechnical publications is the role of failure and its contribution to successful design. This is the central theme in his study To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design, which is accessible to both engineers and general readers. This theme is also incorporated into Petroski's The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance (1990), which relates the history of the pencil to broader sociocultural themes. The theme is expanded further, illustrating the relationship of engineering to our everyday life in The Evolution of Useful Things (1992). Petroski's most recent book, Design Paradigms: Case Histories of Error and Judgment in Engineering, is planned for publication in 1994. After that, he will begin a study of the complex interrelationships between engineering and culture. Widely recognized and supported by both the technical and humanities communities, Petroski's work has effectively conveyed the richness and essence of engineering in its societal context for the general reader.

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