Friday, March 28
11 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Florida Atlantic University
777 Glades Road EE 106
Boca Raton Campus
Engineering is about making and doing things that have not been done before. To be successful, it is essential that engineers properly anticipate how things can fail, and design accordingly. Case studies of past failures thus provide invaluable information for the design of future successes. Conversely, designs based on the extrapolation of successful experience alone can lead to failure. This paradox will be explored in the context of historical case studies, including the design of ocean liners and also of suspension bridges, which from the 1850s through the 1930s evolved from John Roebling’s enormous successes—culminating in the Brooklyn Bridge—to structures that oscillated in the wind and, in the case of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, twisted itself apart and collapsed in 1940. Lessons learned from these cases and others can be generalized to apply across a broad spectrum of engineering structures and systems. They also help explain why failures continue to occur, even as technology advances.
The talk will be illustrated with PowerPoint slides.
Henry Petroski is the Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and a professor of history at Duke University. He has written broadly on the topics of design, success and failure, and the history of engineering and technology. His eighteen books on these subjects include To Engineer Is Human and To Forgive Design. His An Engineer’s Alphabet is a collection of observations, reflections, and speculations relating to the engineering profession. His newest book, The House with Sixteen Handmade Doors: A Tale of Architectural Choice and Craftsmanship, which looks critically at one man’s approach to design and construction and celebrates his unique achievement, will be published in May.
In addition to his books, which have been translated into more than a dozen languages, Petroski has written many general-interest articles and essays for magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Wall Street Journal, and he writes regular columns for the magazines American Scientist and ASEE Prism.
Henry Petroski is registered as a professional engineer in Texas and as a chartered engineer in Ireland. He is a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Institution of Engineers of Ireland. He is also an honorary member of the Moles and is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the U.S. National Academy of Engineering.
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