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To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 31. März 1992

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  • Taschenbuch: 272 Seiten
  • Verlag: Vintage; Auflage: Vintage Books. (31. März 1992)
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 0679734163
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679734161
  • Größe und/oder Gewicht: 13,1 x 1,4 x 20,3 cm
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 3.9 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (8 Kundenrezensionen)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 73.245 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)

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The moral of this book is that behind every great engineering success is a trail of often ignored (but frequently spectacular) engineering failures. Petroski covers many of the best known examples of well-intentioned but ultimately failed design in action -- the galloping Tacoma Narrows Bridge (which you've probably seen tossing cars willy-nilly in the famous black-and-white footage), the collapse of the Kansas City Hyatt Regency Hotel walkways -- and many lesser known but equally informative examples. The line of reasoning Petroski develops in this book were later formalized into his quasi-Darwinian model of technological evolution in The Evolution of Useful Things, but this book is arguably the more illuminating -- and defintely the more enjoyable -- of these two titles. Highly recommended.


Examines the process of engineering design and explains what can be learned by studying unsuccessful designs and the reasons for their failure.

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Shortly after the Kansas City Hyatt Regency Hotel skywalks collapsed in 1981, one of my neighbors asked me how such a thing could happen. Lesen Sie die erste Seite
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1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich Von skirmont@net.com am 19. Februar 1998
Format: Taschenbuch
This book has an interesting goal: To explain engineering failures. But instead of an in-depth failure analysis of the Hyatt hotel, Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and buses, the reader gets the same simple ideas repeated again and again. The Hyatt hotel disaster is mentioned in detail three times before its chapter. That chapter just retells the story and adds little value or insight. This book needs better organization and more real detail and in-depth analysis.
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I should begin by saying that I like this book, that I enjoy Mr. Petroski's writing style, and agree with his premise -- that we stand to learn more by studying a single failure than a thousand successes. Mr. Petroski makes an ample case for this through the judicious use of historic failures, some of which are more historic than others (one example, from ancient Greece, involves methods of storing marble columns).
To his credit, Mr. Petroski's writing style is approachable by non-engineers, a feat that is probably worth at least one star all by itself. But it is a shortcoming that considerable detail has been sacrificed, perhaps in an effort to make the text palatable to a non-technical audience. The resulting text glosses over mechanical reasons for the design flaws under consideration. In some instances, such details are probably not all that important. To be fair, lengthy technical explanations about collapsed bridges, broken ships or fractured colums might render this book even less marketable than it is (at present, it hovers below 14,000th on Amazon's sales ranking). In those cases, the omission simply makes the account less satisifying to the overly curious reader.
But that is not always the case, and some examples would have benefitted from more detailed explanations for two reasons. First, since the book is about learning from mistakes, it would have been valuable to understand the mistake itself. That knowledge would help the reader appreciate how subsequent engineers evaluated a problem, identifed its cause and avoided repeating the mistake in analogous situations. Second, and more troubling, some omissions are confusing. For instance, the Challenger disaster is compared to the aforementioned Greek column problem.
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Format: Taschenbuch
I have to admit that I am a fan of the author's works, so this review may be biased.
I agree with previously posted reviews here that this work is repetative and covers engineering failures at a very high level. However, I believe that this is an important work for those that do any type of complex design or work with designs.
I am not an engineer -- I'm an information systems professional who believes that professionals should be able to review failures, even those of other professions, to better address risk in future projects. The author does a great job of introducing this concept in this book's preface:
"...I believe that an understanding and appreciation of engineers and engineering can be gotten without an engineering or technical education.... I believe that the concept of failure - mechanical and structural failure in the context of this discussion - is central to unerstanding engineering, for engineering design has as its first and foremost objective the obviation of failure. Thus the colossal disasters that do occur are ultimately failures of design, but the lessons learned form those disasters can do more to advance engineering knowledge than all the successful machines and structures in the world."
Take the word engineering out of the above quote and insert any profession there and the quote still works.
I found particularly erie the background on the Comet, the first commercial jet aircraft. In the the chapter on Forensic Engineering, Petroski tells of a early Nevil Shute novel, _No Highway_, in which Shute tells a very, very similar _fictional_ story about a failed commercail aircraft called the Reindeer. I did not know that Shute was an aero engineer working for de Haviland at the same time as the Comet design.
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To Engineer is Human is a surprisingly relevant book, despite being 15 years old now. Some of the examples may tax the memories of younger engineers and engineering students, but that's exactly the point of this book, to emphasize the nature of engineering: improving what has already been done in the past.
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.
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