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

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While reading the book To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design by Henry Petroski, it is difficult not to think that the planes we fly on and the bridges we cross have been once designed and built by ordinary people. Some of them might have been responsible, while oth

The author of the book tries to explain what engineering is, the importance of engineering failure, and the ways it can be measured. In the book review, it is mentioned that Petroski asserts that people can learn more from failure than from success. In such a responsible sphere as engineering, those learning from success can face big problems that are rather tricky as they are not obvious.

To make his points more realistic and easy to understand, Henry Petroski provides examples of successes and failures. He emphasizes that the Crystal Palace, built-in 1851, turned out to be a great success. At the same time, the Hyatt Regency skywalks failure in Kansas was a horrible engineering catastrophe as well as the failure of Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The best point made in the book, I think, is that innovation inherently carries a certain amount of risk with it. No matter what is used by the engineers is it the “factor of safety” or modern technologies and the best possible materials, those engineers who want to bring in something new and better have to be ready for a major failure they will have to take responsibility for.

In the book review, I explain why I cannot quite agree with the author on the point that engineers are very similar to writers in their willingness to create something that has never existed before. In my opinion, this may be true, however, not in terms of responsibility and the importance of the outcomes.

I liked Petroski’s point made about computers and their usage by engineers. Although the numbers calculated by computers can be very precise, I would not trust my computer to develop a sketch for the bridge.

At the end of the book review, I explain why I liked the book. Engineers can make mistakes just like everyone else, which is normal.

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