The Essential Engineer

The Essential Engineer

Why Science Alone Will Not Solve Our Global Problems

Book - 2010
Average Rating:
5
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Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, c2010
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780307272454
0307272451
Branch Call Number: 620 Petr
Characteristics: x, 274 p. : ill.

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b
brotagonist
May 16, 2017

Petroski says that "science is about knowing; engineering is about doing." He shows how technological inventions very often precede the scientific understanding of why they work. He cites examples from every field of technological development, from the great inventions of the past to those of the present. He gets bogged down somewhat in his defense of engineering as the unappreciated practical 'science'. The book is a very well written casual read for those interested in history and science, I mean engineering, specifically applied science, as in R&D, no, development and research... ;-)

1
1aa
May 14, 2015

Another interesting, and sometimes a little boring, collection of essays, all previously published in the periodical 'American Scientist'.

z
zipread
Nov 16, 2012

The Essential Engineer: Why Science Alone Will Not Solve Our Global Problems --- by Henry Petroski. The author is a practicing engineer, a prolific writer and the recipient of too many awards to mention. The catchy part of the title is the “science alone will not solve our global problems” part. And that is the part of the title that this book addresses. One might expect a book like this would be a tough read. But not so. Petroski has written for the lay person. And as such this book makes for quite interesting and stimulating reading.

JeremiahSutherland Jul 25, 2012

Every time I crack open one of the author's books, I am disappointed. The reader will search in vain for deep thinking or interesting concepts.

Much of Petroski's non-technical works come off sounding like an endless monologue by your slightly dotty uncle.

However, if you don't know much about technology, this might be worth your time.

a
arturo_m
Jul 25, 2010

"I am a great fan of science, you know." - Slartibartfast the Magrathean.

Would Henry Petroski, the author of "The Essential Engineer" add, "...but props to the Dilberts, too!"? I mistook Petroski for Dr. Mario G. Salvadori (Why Buildings Fall Down). Salvadori, forensic engineering godfather, passed away some time ago. I read the book anyway remembering “To Engineer is Human”.

“The Essential Engineer” begins with <Ubiquitous Risk> in our world. The profession of engineering is meant to identify, mitigate and eliminate risk. Engineers creatively solve the problem of risk worldwide. Threats are everywhere, from climate change to the collision of asteroids with Earth's surface. Petroski says most believe scientists will identify such threats, understand them, develop and then deploy solutions to obviate them. This wasn’t so in the past, isn’t so now, and won’t be the case in the future. Solutions are conceived, designed and developed by the processes of engineering, not science. Reading Media, however, one could conflate the distinct disciplines. In fact, Petroski perceives incidious bias against the engineering profession in prominent headlines such as the espionage case of Wen Ho Lee.

Unchauvinistically, “Essential” doesn't jealously guard engineering by making it exclusive to trained or licensed engineers. Scientists have done engineering for scientific advancement. Likewise, engineers veer into scientific research pursuant engineering breakthroughs. This is a serious proof that science and engineering exist symbiotically. The layman, most engineers and most scientists don't fully understand this.

Regrettably the book lacks elegance. Petroski only admits to having learned the "rudiments of writing". If this book is written with the intent of persuading the public of the importance of engineering to solve global problems, it'd benefit from a more taut, purposeful narration.

Sci-Eng could ignite 21st-Century American’s imaginations. Perhaps that will happen with more books like “The Essential Engineer”.

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