Remaking the World: Adventures in Engineering

Henry Petroski, Author Alfred A. Knopf $24 (256p) ISBN 978-0-375-40041-4
In this roundup of columns from American Scientist, bestselling author Petroski, a professor of civil engineering at Duke Univ., exhibits the graceful style and flair for storytelling that he brought to The Pencil and Engineers of Dreams. In this volume, he deals with big projects such as the tunnel under the English Channel (Chunnel), the Golden Gate Bridge, Hoover Dam, the Panama Canal and the 1858 launch of the iron ship Great Eastern, which laid the Atlantic cable. He shows how creative design, inspired improvisation and technology translated raw idea into finished product. He celebrates well-known figures like George Ferris, who built the famous wheel for the 1893 Chicago world's fair, as well as neglected innovators such as Galveston, Tex., military engineer Henry Robert, best known for Robert's Rules of Order. Especially provocative is a cautionary essay on the potential dangers of misplaced reliance on computer software. He also argues that, according to provisions of Alfred Nobel's 1895 will, engineers should be eligible for the Nobel Prize. Petroski not only identifies the social and cultural context in which engineers operate but also convincingly dramatizes engineering as the triumph of human will, ingenuity and persistence. Photos. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 12/01/1997
Release date: 12/01/1997
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