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

The Essential Engineer: Why Science Alone Will Not Solve Our Global Problems
Author: Henry Petroski
ISBN 13: 9780307473509
ISBN 10: 307473503
Edition: Reprint
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: 2011-03-08
Format: Paperback
Pages: 288
List Price: $16.00

From the acclaimed author of The Pencil and To Engineer Is Human, a timely and eye-opening exploration of the ways in which science and engineering must work together to address our world's most pressing issues, from climate change and the prevention of natural disasters to the search for renewable energy technologies.

Petroski makes clear that while science may identify problems, it takes engineering to solve them; that the inherent practicality of engineering--which must take into account structural, economic, and environmental factors that science does not always consider--makes it vital to answering our most urgent concerns. He takes us inside the research, development, and debates surrounding the critical challenges of our time, pointing out that in many cases the pertinent technology exists and waits only for engineers to implement it. He provides a historical tour of the accomplishments of the past two centuries--the steamship, the airplane, the moon...

Publishers Weekly

For a quarter-century now, Duke University's Petroski has replaced Samuel Florman as the foremost American civil engineer explaining to lay audiences the nature of engineering and its crucial role in improving the world. Petroski has long been outraged by the persistent elevation of scientists over engineers in terms of intelligence and creativity. Yet none of Petroski's 14 books on technology has argued so aggressively as his newest that engineers do not merely apply what scientists discover. Instead, engineers seek the most appropriate solution out of several to any engineering problem—not the supposedly single solution requiring diligence rather than depth. Analyzing both historical and contemporary examples, from climate change to public health, Petroski shows how science often overlooks structural, economic, environmental and aesthetic dimensions that routinely challenge engineers. Moreover, he says, sometimes science trails technology, as when engineers had to design the first moon landing vehicles before scientists learned its surface composition. Far from being hostile toward science, Petroski pleads for continued cooperation between science and engineering. When, as Petroski laments, even President Obama has sometimes omitted engineering in touting science, this book could hardly be more timely. Illus. (Jan.)