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The Book on the Bookshelf

by Henry Petroski

From the author of the highly praised The Pencil and The Evolution of Useful Things comes another captivating history of the seemingly mundane: the book and its storage.Most of us take for granted that our books are vertical on our shelves with the spines facing out, but Henry Petroski, inveterately curious engineer, didn't. As a result, readers are guided along the astonishing evolution from papyrus scrolls boxed at Alexandria to upright books shelved at the Library of Congress. Unimpeachably researched, enviably written, and charmed with anecdotes from Seneca to Samuel Pepys to a nineteenth-century bibliophile who had to climb over his books to get into bed, The Book on the Bookshelf is indispensable for anyone who loves books.From the Trade Paperback edition.

Design Paradigms

by Henry Petroski

From classical temples to twentieth century towers, engineers have learned more about design from failure than from success. The concept of error, according to the author of Design Paradigms, is central to the design process. As a way of explaining the enduring aspects of engineering design, Henry Petroski relates stories of some of the greatest engineering successes and failures of all time. These case studies, drawn from a wide range of times and places, from Ancient Greece and Rome to modern America, serve as paradigms of error and judgment in engineering design. By showing how errors were introduced in the design process and how they might be avoided, the book suggests how better quality and reliability might be achieved in designed devices, structures, and systems of all kinds. Clearly written, with striking illustrations, the book will appeal to engineering students, practicing engineers, historians of science and technology, and all those interested in learning about the process of design.

An Engineer's Alphabet

by Henry Petroski

Written by America's most famous engineering storyteller and educator, this abecedarian is one engineer's selection of thoughts, quotations, anecdotes, facts, trivia, and arcana relating to the practice, history, culture, and traditions of his profession. The entries reflect decades of reading, writing, talking, and thinking about engineers and engineering, and range from brief essays to lists of great engineering achievements. This work is organized alphabetically and more like a dictionary than an encyclopedia. It is not intended to be read from first page to last, but rather to be dipped into here and there as the mood strikes the reader. In time, it is hoped, this book should become the source to which readers go first when they encounter a vague or obscure reference to the softer side of engineering.

Engineers of Dreams: Great Bridge Builders and the Spanning of America

by Henry Petroski

Petroski reveals the science and engineering--not to mention the politics, egotism, and sheer magic--behind America's great bridges, particularly those constructed during the great bridge-building era starting in the 1870s and continuing through the 1930s. It is the story of the men and women who built the St. Louis, the George Washington, and the Golden Gate bridges, drawing not only on their mastery of numbers but on their gifts for persuasion and self-promotion. It is an account of triumphs and ignominious disasters (including the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which literally twisted itself apart in a high wind). And throughout this grandly engaging book, Petroski lets us see how bridges became the "symbols and souls" of our civilization, as well as testaments to their builders' vision, ingenuity, and perseverance. "Seamlessly linked. . . With astonishing scope and generosity of view, Mr. Petroski places the tradition of American bridge-building in perspective. "--New York Times Book Review

The Essential Engineer: Why Science Alone Will Not Solve Our Global Problems

by Henry Petroski

From the acclaimed author ofThe PencilandTo Engineer Is Human,The Essential Engineeris an eye-opening exploration of the ways in which science and engineering must work together to address our world's most pressing issues, from dealing with climate change and the prevention of natural disasters to the development of efficient automobiles and the search for renewable energy sources. While the scientist may identify problems, it falls to the engineer to solve them. It is the inherent practicality of engineering, which takes into account structural, economic, environmental, and other factors that science often does not consider, that makes engineering vital to answering our most urgent concerns. Henry Petroski takes us inside the research, development, and debates surrounding the most critical challenges of our time, exploring the feasibility of biofuels, the progress of battery-operated cars, and the question of nuclear power. He gives us an in-depth investigation of the various options for renewable energy--among them solar, wind, tidal, and ethanol--explaining the benefits and risks of each. Will windmills soon populate our landscape the way they did in previous centuries? Will synthetic trees, said to be more efficient at absorbing harmful carbon dioxide than real trees, soon dot our prairies? Will we construct a "sunshade" in outer space to protect ourselves from dangerous rays? In many cases, the technology already exists. What's needed is not so much invention as engineering. Just as the great achievements of centuries past--the steamship, the airplane, the moon landing--once seemed beyond reach, the solutions to the twenty-first century's problems await only a similar coordination of science and engineering. Eloquently reasoned and written,The Essential Engineeridentifies and illuminates these problems--and, above all, sets out a course for putting ideas into action.

The Evolution of Useful Things: How Everyday Artifacts--From Forks and Pins to Paper Clips and Zippers--Came to Be as They Are

by Henry Petroski

How did the table fork acquire a fourth tine? What advantage does the Phillips-head screw have over its single-grooved predecessor? Why does the paper clip look the way it does? What makes Scotch tape Scotch? In this delightful book Henry, Petroski takes a microscopic look at artifacts that most of us count on but rarely contemplate, including such icons of the everyday as pins, Post-its, and fast-food "clamshell" containers. At the same time, he offers a convincing new theory of technological innovation as a response to the perceived failures of existing products--suggesting that irritation, and not necessity, is the mother of invention.From the Trade Paperback edition.

Paperboy: Confessions of a Future Engineer

by Henry Petroski

Henry Petroski has been called "the poet laureate of technology." He is one of the most eloquent and inquisitive science and engineering writers of our time, illuminating with new clarity such familiar objects as pencils, books, and bridges. In Paperboy, he turns his intellectual curiosity inward, on his own past. Petroski grew up in the Cambria Heights section of New York City's borough of Queens during the 1950s, in the midst of a close and loving family. Educated at local Catholic schools, he worked as a delivery boy for the Long Island Press. The job taught him lessons about diligence, labor, commitment, and community-mindedness, lessons that this successful student could not learn at school. From his vantage point as a professor, engineer, and writer, Petroski reflects fondly on these lessons, and on his near-idyllic boyhood. Paperboy is also the story of the intellectual maturation of an engineer. Petroski's curiosity about how things work--from bicycles to Press-books to newspaper delivery routes--was evident even in his youth. He writes with clear-eyed passion about the physical surroundings of his world, the same attitude he has brought to examining the quotidian objects of our world. Paperboy is a delightful memoir, telling the dual story of an admirable family in a more innocent, bygone America, and the making of an engineer and writer. This is a book to cherish and reread.

The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance

by Henry Petroski

Henry Petroski traces the origins of the pencil back to ancient Greece and Rome, writes factually and charmingly about its development over the centuries and around the world, and shows what the pencil can teach us about engineering and technology today.

Pushing the Limits: New Adventures in Engineering

by Henry Petroski

Here are two dozen tales in the grand adventure of engineering from the Henry Petroski, who has been called America's poet laureate of technology. Pushing the Limits celebrates some of the largest things we have created-bridges, dams, buildings--and provides a startling new vision of engineering's past, its present, and its future. Along the way it highlights our greatest successes, like London's Tower Bridge; our most ambitious projects, like China's Three Gorges Dam; our most embarrassing moments, like the wobbly Millennium Bridge in London; and our greatest failures, like the collapse of the twin towers on September 11. Throughout, Petroski provides fascinating and provocative insights into the world of technology with his trademark erudition and enthusiasm for the subject.

Remaking the World: Adventures in Engineering

by Henry Petroski

A selection of 19 articles (most) first published in "American Scientist" by the engineer/author notable for his interest in giving engineers a broader sense of their field, and giving the general public an appreciation of the art and science of engineering. Among Petroski's previous works are "The Evolution of Useful Things" and "To Engineer Is Human". Annotation c. by Book News, Inc. , Portland, Or.

Small Things Considered: Why There Is No Perfect Design

by Henry Petroski

Even everyday objects that most people never think of as having been designed, says Petroski (civil engineering and history, Duke U.), remain works in progress. He points out that objects change with age and use, people change in their needs and wants, and the environment changes, so no design is more than an approximation for a particular time, place, and purpose. Annotation (c)2003 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Success through Failure

by Henry Petroski

Design pervades our lives. Everything from drafting a PowerPoint presentation to planning a state-of-the-art bridge embodies this universal human activity. But what makes a great design? In this compelling and wide-ranging look at the essence of invention, distinguished engineer and author Henry Petroski argues that, time and again, we have built success on the back of failure--not through easy imitation of success.Success through Failure shows us that making something better--by carefully anticipating and thus averting failure--is what invention and design are all about. Petroski explores the nature of invention and the character of the inventor through an unprecedented range of both everyday and extraordinary examples--illustrated lectures, child-resistant packaging for drugs, national constitutions, medical devices, the world's tallest skyscrapers, long-span bridges, and more. Stressing throughout that there is no surer road to eventual failure than modeling designs solely on past successes, he sheds new light on spectacular failures, from the destruction of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1940 and the space shuttle disasters of recent decades, to the collapse of the World Trade Center in 2001. Petroski also looks at the prehistoric and ancient roots of many modern designs. The historical record, especially as embodied in failures, reveals patterns of human social behavior that have implications for large structures like bridges and vast organizations like NASA. Success through Failure--which will fascinate anyone intrigued by design, including engineers, architects, and designers themselves--concludes by speculating on when we can expect the next major bridge failure to occur, and the kind of bridge most likely to be involved.

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

by Henry Petroski

Drawing on everyday examples of how things break, Petroski explains relevant engineering principles and how engineers deal with, risks in a way nonprofessionals will understand.

To Forgive Design: Understanding Failure

by Henry Petroski

When planes crash, bridges collapse, and automobile gas tanks explode, we are quick to blame poor design. But Henry Petroski says we must look beyond design for causes and corrections. Known for his masterly explanations of engineering successes and failures, Petroski here takes his analysis a step further, to consider the larger context in which accidents occur. In "To Forgive Design" he surveys some of the most infamous failures of our time, from the 2007 Minneapolis bridge collapse and the toppling of a massive Shanghai apartment building in 2009 to Bostons prolonged Big Dig and the 2010 Gulf oil spill. These avoidable disasters reveal the interdependency of people and machines within systems whose complex behavior was undreamt of by their designers, until it was too late. Petroski shows that even the simplest technology is embedded in cultural and socioeconomic constraints, complications, and contradictions. Failure to imagine the possibility of failure is the most profound mistake engineers can make. Software developers realized this early on and looked outside their young field, to structural engineering, as they sought a historical perspective to help them identify their own potential mistakes. By explaining the interconnectedness of technology and culture and the dangers that can emerge from complexity, Petroski demonstrates that we would all do well to follow their lead.

The Toothpick: Technology and Culture

by Henry Petroski

Like The Pencil, Henry Petroski's The Toothpick is a celebration of a humble yet elegant device. As old as mankind and as universal as eating, this useful and ubiquitous tool finally gets its due in this wide-ranging and compulsively readable book. Here is the unexpected story of the simplest of implements--whether made of grass, gold, quill, or wood--a story of engineering and design, of culture and class, and a lesson in how to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary. Petroski takes us back to ancient Rome, where the emperor Nero makes his entrance into a banquet hall with a silver toothpick in his mouth; and to a more recent time in Spain, where a young señorita uses the delicately pointed instrument to protect her virtue from someone trying to steal a kiss. He introduces us to Charles Forster, a nineteenth-century Bostonian and father of the American toothpick industry, who hires Harvard students to demand toothpicks in area restaurants--thereby making their availability in eating establishments as expected as condiments. And Petroski takes us inside the surprisingly secretive toothpick-manufacturing industry, in which one small town's factories can turn out 200 million wooden toothpicks a day using methods that, except for computer controls, haven't changed much in almost 150 years. He also explores a treasure trove of the toothpick's unintended uses and perils, from sandwiches to martinis and beyond. With an engineer's eye for detail and a poet's flair for language, Petroski has earned his reputation as a writer who explains our world--from the tallest buildings to the lowliest toothpick--to us.

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