This New York Times review of Henry Petroski’s book, Success Through Failure: The Paradox of Design makes some interesting points about the whole engineering/design process. Here is a snippet of the review:
Failure 101. That is the nickname of an engineering course Henry Petroski describes in his new book, “Success Through Failure: The Paradox of Design” (Princeton University Press). And if it sounds as if the course (like the book) must be full of self-help advice for engineers, that is partly true.
Failure, Mr. Petroski shows, works. Or rather, engineers only learn from things that fail: bridges that collapse, software that crashes, spacecraft that explode. Everything that is designed fails, and everything that fails leads to better design. Next time at least that mistake won’t be made: Aleve won’t be packed in child-proof bottles so difficult to open that they stymie the arthritic patients seeking the pills inside; narrow suspension bridges won’t be built without “stay cables” like the ill-fated Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which was twisted to its destruction by strong winds in 1940.
To read the full review, click this link. [Registration required for NY Times.]
To order the book on Amazon and see other reader reviews, click this link.