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Remaking the World:
Engineers, Henry Petroski observes, are sometimes their own worst enemies, at least so far as communicating their work to the general public is concerned. Some engineers, of course, have been exceptions. One of the unlikely heroes of Petroski's Remaking the World, an entertaining foray into some of engineering's finest (and, on occasion, less exalted) moments, is Karl August Rudolf Steinmetz, who combined a great talent for design and engineering with a keenly practiced flair for self-promotion. Another is Washington Gale Ferris, the inventor of the Ferris wheel, who concocted several dangerous eyesores before arriving at the design familiar to amusement-park patrons.
Successful at explaining themselves or not, engineers are largely responsible for the world as we know it, and Petroski examines their work to discuss how good design and technology combine to produce the desired results. That combination involves much trial and error, and, as Petroski writes, "artifacts from paper clips to steamships evolve by removing some real or perceived failure of their ancestors to achieve unqualified success." Drawing on examples from past and present, Petroski offers an up-close view of how engineers do their work, and his history is full of surprises and pleasures. --Gregory McNamee [via]