‘Essential Engineer’ author to discuss paradox of success and failure

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On March 24, 2011

In his latest book The Essential Engineer: Why Science Alone Will Not Solve Our Global Problems, Dr. Henry Petroski argues that engineers play a crucial role in the success of many of the world’s greatest achievements. In an upcoming lecture at Missouri University of Science and Technology, Petroski will also talk about why engineering failures are also important.

“Success and Failure in Engineering: A Paradoxical Relationship” is the title of Petroski’s presentation at Missouri S&T. His talk, illustrated with a slideshow, begins at 2:15 p.m. Friday, April 15, in St. Pat’s Ballroom C of the Havener Center on the Missouri S&T campus. The event is free and open to the public.

Petroski’s lecture is presented as part of the Neil and Maurita Stueck Distinguished Lecture Series. It is also sponsored by the Missouri S&T department of civil, architectural and environmental engineering, which will host Petroski during his visit to campus.

Petroski is the Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and also a professor of history at Duke University. A prolific author, Petroski has written broadly on the topics of design, success and failure, and the history of engineering and technology.

In addition to The Essential Engineer, which was published in 2010, Petroski has written a dozen other books. They include To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design, Design Paradigms: Case Histories of Error and Judgment in Engineering and The Evolution of Useful Things: How Everyday Artifacts – From Forks and Pins to Paper Clips and Zippers – Came to Be as They Are.

He also has written general-interest articles and essays for magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal. He also is a regular columnist for American Scientist and ASEE Prism, which is published by the American Society for Engineering Education.

In his April 15 lecture at Missouri S&T, Petroski will discuss how lessons from past failures apply across a broad spectrum of engineering structures and systems.

The Stueck Distinguished Lecture Series is made possible by a fund established by Maurita Stueck to bring outside perspectives to Missouri S&T, and to honor her late husband, Neil Stueck, a 1943 civil engineering graduate of the university.

“It was her dream to create a program which will bring additional outside perspectives into the classroom, something which her late husband would have been very proud to support,” says Dr. Richard Elgin, adjunct professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering and chair of the lecture series committee.

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