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To Forgive Design: Understanding Failure
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To Forgive Design: Understanding Failure

3.41  ·  Rating Details ·  124 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
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 Forg
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published March 30th 2012 by Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (first published March 15th 2012)
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Nelson Zagalo
Oct 22, 2015 Nelson Zagalo rated it liked it
Shelves: academic, non-fiction
Este livro trata um tema crítico da atividade humana, “a falha”, o estudo e análise do modo como falhamos na realização das nossas ações. O livro foca-se sobre a engenharia, nomeadamente civil e mecânica, mas o ponto ilustrado serve qualquer outra engenharia, serve o design, serve toda a atividade criativa, acabando por servir toda a atividade humana. Mais serviria se o autor se tivesse conseguido focar nessa essência como promete o título, não o conseguindo perde o livro e perdemos nós.

Esta que
Dec 28, 2014 Carol rated it really liked it
I got this from the library with the intent of gleaning a few tidbits for a class assignment. I ended up reading the whole thing and not using any tidbits. The book gives good historical accounts of several engineering catastrophes and their human interfaces while highlighting the value of failure.
Kelsey Grissom
Jan 07, 2017 Kelsey Grissom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While this book was written more for engineers, I (who am NOT an engineer) still found it thought-provoking, entertaining, and informative. Petroski is particularly good at interdisciplinary thinking, which makes this book useful for anyone who is willing to slog through the little bits of insider-writing about Engineering campuses and practices in order to mine the gold about what failure could (and should) teach us.
Apr 13, 2012 Stella rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I like it because it is a non-fiction book. I appreciate the thorough explanations about metal fatigue, testing strength of building materials, and intended planned failure. That was something I never thought of. For instance, crackers, stamps and chocolate bars, are perforated to break easily when a certain force is applied. I had not previously thought of this concept. A sprinkling system in case of fire has a thermo-sensitive device that breaks when the air around it reaches the design activa ...more
Margaret Sankey
Dec 15, 2012 Margaret Sankey rated it liked it
Reading this made me appreciate that things don't fail more often than they do. A bridge, or space shuttle, or parking garage or de-icing boot on an airplane is a complex system--it may have been built with redundant safety tolerances, but one shoddy material, or one sub-contractor who didn't pour the concrete properly, or an addition that added different stresses, or an increase in use, or an environmental factor (heat/cold/salt water corrosion), or a new way of using it, or some repairs made w ...more
Thomas Warger
Mar 10, 2014 Thomas Warger rated it really liked it
Shelves: technology
Numerous good accounts of why we need to break the taboo that holds that failure has nothing to teach us, other than not to repeat that particular mistake.

I liked it for the insights on the intersections of technology, socio-economic context, and learning/progress. On another level, I saw in it some good cross-over applications to the management of technology support services, which is my line of work.

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John Kowalczyk
Petroski starts out strong with numerous descriptions in rapid succession of structural concrete related failures, highlighting the underlying non-obvious causes. It was a pleasant and confidence building beginning. And overall, I was impressed. The author emphasizes throughout the book, the importance of proper planning and analysis and shows respect for the complexity inherent in sophisticated engineering designs, refuting oversimplified 1:1 causality. But for some reason, I felt it was lackin ...more
Jul 15, 2012 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebook, kindle
Petroski writes almost an ode to failure: why it happens, why it must be studied and why we must always welcome it. It is through failure that things are learned and designs improve. Petroski looks at failure in a very broad sense: not just failure of design or technology but of all of the human decisions that come into play when massive projects - like bridges or shuttles - are put together. Petroski hopes that modern colleges of engineering and modern engineers study failure and plan for failu ...more
Rick Edwards
Apr 26, 2012 Rick Edwards rated it really liked it
Petroski tells the stories of a number of engineering failures and what was learned from them. He does an excellent job, and makes a strong case for engineering training to include a better historical perspective. There appears to be a tendency for engineers to forget the lessons of past failures, and to build on recent successes without fulling understanding the rationale for them. Ergo, important considerations may be overlooked.
Jul 23, 2014 Qwerty88 rated it it was ok
Read _To Engineer is Human_ and _The Evolution of Useful Things_ and you'll have captured the main points in a more cohesive presentation.

I really wish that he had done more with the idea of the human factors which cause failure which he hasn't really covered before - the people who bypass systems which are perceived as too constraining, the employees who don't want to cause waves, the toxic workplaces that lead to accepting too much risk without realizing it, etc.
Alan Cunningham
Nov 24, 2013 Alan Cunningham rated it it was amazing
This was a great book for this time in my life. The author makes each paragraph into a little story of its own, which means he writes more than I would care to, but his prose still flows. I have enjoyed two of his other books, for much the same reasons. He gets the inside scoop and detailed accounts on long dead tales that bring history alive.
Oct 26, 2015 dejah_thoris rated it liked it
It took me forever to slog through this because I made the mistake of reading the rest of the author's work first. If you're going to read one book by Petroski, read this one. It has the most current examples and the same philosophy. It's a little heavy-handed at times and the memoir sections can seem unnecessary but it hits the high points in his field.
Jun 22, 2012 Douglas rated it really liked it
As we march into the future, we are destined to deal with failures of systems, buildings, networks. The author indicates it is sometimes generational. People forget what others have learned.

Nice ending about how we are all human and learn from our mistakes.
Aug 08, 2012 Anna rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book, but it needs an editor with a very sharp pencil. Stream-of-consciousness writing about mechanical engineering can only get you so far in this gal's heart. Also, what sort of engineer doesn't include at least one diagram/photo/design/illustration? Did not finish.
Mikel Hensley
Oct 27, 2012 Mikel Hensley rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
Meh. It starts out with some really interesting stories, but then bogs down after that. After the multitude of explanations for why fail-safe breaks count as failures (but successful failures!), I could barely motivate myself to read further.
Aug 22, 2012 Dianne rated it really liked it
Good book on failure and the many ways they happen.
May 01, 2013 Rick rated it it was amazing
Written for the layman. A great and interesting read for sure.
Oct 09, 2013 Ellen rated it it was ok
Shelves: technology
Too repetitive for me; some interesting case histories considered, but overall not that much meat in these pages.
May 10, 2012 Carl rated it it was ok
I was hoping more about how things go wrong and less of the author's memoir of becoming a engineer of failure. I gave up on this book about halfway through.
Leslie Kirk-smith
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Henry Petroski is a civil engineering professor at Duke University where he specializes in failure analysis.

Petroski was born in Brooklyn, New York, and in 1963, he received his bachelor's degree from Manhattan College. He graduated with his Ph.D. in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1968. Before beginning his work at Duke in 1980, he worked a
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“That decision falls to scientists, engineers, and managers—with at least the tacit approval of company officers and boards of directors. All complex technology is inseparably coupled to an equally complex team of people and systems of people who should interact with one another as smoothly and with as clear a purpose as a set of well-meshed gears.” 1 likes
“Some positive persisting fops we know, Who, if once wrong, will needs be always so; But you, with pleasure own your errors past, And make each day a critic on the last. —Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism” 1 likes
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