Customer Reviews for

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

Average Rating 3.5
( 8 )
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  • Posted July 18, 2012

    Not too concrete in analyzing steel

    The most interesting thing about the book is the cover (a famous photograph of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsing in the wind in 1940). But then all it really amounts to is 232 pages of defensiveness, repeating over and over that failure is just a part of life and experimentation and if we don't want to stagnate we have to expect cracks and collapses, so don't blame the hapless engineer for trying to forward human achievement. Yes, engineers and designers can sometimes be the scapegoats for failures beyond their control, but he makes a weak case and uses this argument to eclipse the real causes and analyses of structural failure. The author cites very few actual examples, analizes the same few examples over and over, and his one or two attempts at discussing novel failures--such as cracks in a set of kitchen knives--go nowhere since it's pure speculation, with no actual research. What's most glaring is his almost complete neglect for the basic role of cost-cutting measures in leading businesses to ignore testing, quality control, maintenance, and basic oversight, putting profits before safety, an essential component he barely touches. In a book supposedly written for the lay person the illustrations, which are critical for understanding the examples he refers to, are few and far between. Some of the major examples he cites, such as the collapse of the Hartford Civic Center roof or the John Hancock building windows failure in Boston, aren't illustrated at all. And for a mostly polemical work there are surprising inconsistencies--in the last chapter he says that that exposing engineering failure are a credit to the profession, only to cite on the next page an engineering conference on structural failure that refused to publish any results. It's an interesting premise, but he goes nowhere (or rather in circles) with it. For a more in-depth and concrete (no pun intended) analysis go to Mario Salvadori, Why Buildings Fall Down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2005

    A well written description of engineering

    I thought this book was well written and a pleasure to read. I felt it would be a great book to explain to non-engineers in laymen's terms what engineers have to deal with. Engineers in all fields must push the technological envelope and manage risk. This book describes the struggles and why they exist.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2004

    Great selection

    This book is a great book on engineering philosophy and the true role of failure in engineering. As in real life, this book points out that we don't learn much from successes, but gain a lot of useful information in our failures that prevent the catastophes from happening again. This is not a mathematical engineering reference book. It is a book that states that when you innovate, mistakes will happen and we must learn from them. Though a little dated, its concepts apply to Challenger, Columbia, and even 9-11 (from the viewpoint of 'why did these happen and how can we keep them from happening again.') I being a recent engineering graduate found it very interesting and read it cover to cover.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2002

    Engenering?

    Although this book was well written it seemed to be more of a bio. of engenerring than a useful source.

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    Posted December 10, 2009

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    Posted November 4, 2008

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    Posted December 3, 2009

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    Posted July 20, 2009

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