Invention by Design; How Engineers Get from Thought to Thing

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9780674463684: Invention by Design; How Engineers Get from Thought to Thing

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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About the Author:

Henry Petroski is the Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and Professor of History at Duke University.

From Kirkus Reviews:

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 cheerleader for civil engineers, who are at their most successful when their designs blend so completely into our environment that we forget about the magnificent achievements they represent. Here Petroski takes a look at the development of such things as pencils, zippers, paper clips, the fax machine, turbojet aircraft, suspension bridges, aluminum beverage cans, and the systems that heat and cool modern buildings. Since he has written before about the history of lead pencils, zippers, and paper clips, he tries this time to turn his emphasis more toward the engineering process involved in developing the object, but many readers will feel that he's merely recapitulating earlier work. (On the other hand, his chapter on the pencil nicely summarizes an entire book, saving new readers some time.) Petroski writes interestingly on the aluminum beverage can, but a widely circulated Scientific American article, which he draws from, covered this ground more succinctly and with more authority in 1994 and is still widely available on the Internet. On the grand if exotic subject of sewers and water management, civil engineering's greatest triumph and, arguably, the greatest achievement of the Roman and later the British empires, Petroski, oddly, loses his popularizer's touch, taking a historical perspective that never escapes the tone of a summary. Perhaps this subject deserves a book all its own. On the fax machine, however, and particularly on the development of the Boeing 777, Petroski flies to his customary heights. Petroski once again goes where many have gone before, this time with mixed results. Not his best effort, but pleasant, readable, and persuasive, nonetheless. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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