Invention by Design: How Engineers Get from Thought to Thing

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9780674463677: Invention by Design: How Engineers Get from Thought to Thing
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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. Henry Petroski's previous books include: "To Engineer Is Human", which was developed into a BBC television documentary; "The Pencil": "The Evolution of Useful Things"; and "Engineers of Dreams".

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Review:

This is a delightful book to read. Ostensibly, written for intelligent laypersons to give some understanding of how we got to the technological world in which we now live, it will probably be read and enjoyed as much or even more by engineering and product designers. -- Peter J. Booker "Engineering Designer" Petroski...has done much to make the nerdy world of engineering interesting and accessible to the reader. Here, he's after a difference audience, one interested in the philosophy and cultural study of the process of invention...This book is engaging...�It's� good reading for those interested in the gestalt of engineering design. 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...�A� pleasant, readable, and persuasive �book�. �A� lucid and lively book...Whether designing something as small as a pencil or as large as the World Trade Center, successful engineers must not only devise new technology but also find a way to situate that technology within the existing economic, social, and ecological order. Every case study includes well-chosen pictures and schematic drawings to clarify how inventors resolve technical difficulties, and the carefully researched text explains how they make their new creations economically feasible and socially acceptable. Students of technology will delight in one part of the book, cultural historians in another, but both groups will praise the author. -- Bryce Christensen "Booklist" People who think engineering is a bore have never read anything by Henry Petroski. A professor of civil engineering and history at Duke University, Petroski is notable for writing an entire book about pencils...and making the whole 400 pages completely fascinating. His newest book, which proclaims itself as showing how engineers get from thought to thing, ' is equally interesting..."Invention by Design" uses 10 short case studies to introduce some of the discipline's salient principles and techniques...Readers end up with a wonderful accumulation of fun facts...Such details do more than entertain. They show how engineers work and emphasize how engineers must go beyond design and analysis to consider the risks and consequences of a product's failure, ensure quality control, minimize costs and satisfy the dictates of aesthetics, politics and social attitudes. -- John R. Alden "Cleveland Plain Dealer" If in "Invention by Design" Henry Petroski doesn't quite endow engineers with all the nobility and cachet of the artist, he does make the products of their work--the beer cans from which we drink, the airplanes in which we fly--the interesting things they truly are. Each of these--along with the paper clip, pencil, zipper, fax machine, water-supply system, bridge and skyscraper--Petroski honors with a heavily illustrated chapter, each a glimpse into the workings of engineering design...�Petroski� tells a good story...The technical aspects of �Petroski's� stories are very appealing. To see a pencil as a cantilever beam or a beverage can as a pressure vessel is to feel the power of engineering insight. The technical aspects of �Petroski's� stories are very appealing. To see a pencil as a cantilever beam or a beverage can as a pressure vessel is to feel the power of engineering insight. -- David Jones "Nature" Petroski light-heartedly though soundly exposes the so-called engineer's thinking, which from its position within the field of science and technology is more concerned with designing than with calculating. The book makes elegant connections between the design features of a variety of "engineering products." These are discussed in the most natural-seeming of series; from paper clip, pencil and zipper, via problems of water and air transport, to designs for bridges and skyscrapers. The reader is, as it were, trained to be an inquisitive designer. Scattered throughout the book are brief mental exercises in the shape of entertaining questions regarding designed details of the real world (Why are ashtrays in aircraft glued shut? What structural precautions need to be taken if a complete oil platform, whose length is greater than the height of the highest building in the world, is to be moved from a horizontal to a vertical position?) This arrangement explains why the book is required reading for many a student. But Petroski also achieves the necessary depth whenever he explains in detail the principles and processes which lie behind existing and widely known products...�"Invention by Design"� does comprise an outstanding source of knowledge and inspiration as much about history as about design approaches. -- Marc Maurer "Archis �The Netherlands�" much or even more by engineering and product designers. buildings...[A] pleasant, readable, and persuasive [book]. "Invention by Design" should be required reading for all present and future engineers. illustrated chapter, each a glimpse into the workings of engineering design...[Petroski] tells a good story. invention...This book is engaging...[It's] good reading for those interested in the gestalt of engineering design. [Petroski's] stories are very appealing. To see a pencil as a cantilever beam or a beverage can as a pressure vessel is to feel the power of engineering insight. and widely known products...["Invention by Design"] does comprise an outstanding source of knowledge and inspiration as much about history as about design approaches. engineers must go beyond design and analysis to consider the risks and consequences of a product's failure, ensure quality control, minimize costs and satisfy the dictates of aesthetics, politics and social attitudes. explains how they make their new creations economically feasible and socially acceptable. Students of technology will delight in one part of the book, cultural historians in another, but both groups will praise the author.

About the Author:

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

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