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Petroski’s History & Heritage Legacy Deserves Big Thanks

After thirteen years of service to the History and Heritage Committee, twelve years as chair, Henry Petroski has announced his retirement from the committee. As many readers of this newsletter know, Henry is a prolific writer, sought after speaker, Distinguished Member of ASCE, Professor of Civil Engineering and History at Duke University, Professional Engineer, Member of the NAE, Academy of Arts and Science…and the accomplishments go on.

Henry has a truly impressive list of acclaimed books to his credit (see below), ranging from To Engineer Is Human through To Forgive Design; Understanding Failure, and writes a regular column in the American Scientist and the ASEE Prism. ASCE honored him with a front cover picture in the February 2010 issue of Civil Engineering. He has been called, and rightly so, America’s Poet Laureate of Technology. 

 Henry Petroski
 Henry Petroski

For those of us who worked on History and Heritage programs he has been an example, mentor, cheerleader, and calm and knowledgeable chairman. Over his term on the committee, and as chair, membership in the committee has turned over several times, and the only glue holding it together was Henry and Bernie Dennis, the long-time vice-chair of the committee. For someone as busy as Henry to devote the time and effort he has to ASCE History and Heritage programs is perhaps unparalleled. Over his term he has rarely missed a meeting or conference call and has, working with Staff Liaison Carol Reese, presented coherent agendas for consideration by the committee. As Henry deals with the ever increasing demands on his busy schedule as educator, writer, and speaker, he has, thankfully, agreed to remain on the committee as a corresponding member.

The committee, and the entire Society, wish him well and will send him off with the statement, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” He will be a hard act to follow!

Petroski’s Books:  

To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design (1985)  
Beyond Engineering: Essays and Other Attempts to Figure without Equations (1986)  
The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance (1990)  
The Evolution of Useful Things (1992)  
Design Paradigms: Case Histories of Error and Judgment in Engineering (1994)  
Engineers of Dreams: Great Bridge Builders and the Spanning of America (1995)  
Invention by Design: How Engineers Get from Thought to Thing (1996)  
Remaking the World: Adventures in Engineering (1997)  
The Book on the Bookshelf (1999)  
Paperboy: Confessions of a Future Engineer (2002)  
Small Things Considered: Why There Is No Perfect Design (2003)  
Pushing the Limits: New Adventures in Engineering (2004)  
Success Through Failure: The Paradox of Design (2006)  
The Toothpick: Technology and Culture. (2007)  
The Essential Engineer: Why Science Alone Will Not Solve Our Global Problems (2010)  
An Engineers Alphabet: Gleanings from the Softer Side of a Profession (2011)  
To Forgive Design; Understanding Failure (2012)