Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist
Design Paradigms

Design Paradigms
Case Histories of Error and Judgment in Engineering

$29.99 (P)

  • Date Published: May 1994
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521466493

$ 29.99 (P)

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:

Looking for an examination copy?

If you are interested in the title for your course we can consider offering an examination copy. To register your interest please contact providing details of the course you are teaching.

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • From classical temples to twentieth century towers, engineers have learned more about design from failure than from success. The concept of error, according to the author of Design Paradigms, is central to the design process. As a way of explaining the enduring aspects of engineering design, Henry Petroski relates stories of some of the greatest engineering successes and failures of all time. These case studies, drawn from a wide range of times and places, from Ancient Greece and Rome to modern America, serve as paradigms of error and judgment in engineering design. By showing how errors were introduced in the design process and how they might be avoided, the book suggests how better quality and reliability might be achieved in designed devices, structures, and systems of all kinds. Clearly written, with striking illustrations, the book will appeal to engineering students, practicing engineers, historians of science and technology, and all those interested in learning about the process of design.

    • Unique and complementary mix of engineering and history
    • Use of case histories to explain engineering design
    • Puts engineering design in a cultural context
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    "This book is now on my list of required reading for all engineering students." IEEE Spectrum

    "...draws on examples from the 4th century BC onwards to identify common features in engineering failures, and offers guidance on how to avoid failure while encouraging innovation...extremely well documented and illustrated...can be read by all those interested in engineering, not just structural engineers." New Scientist

    "...nicely done and the case for using engineering history to comprehend the nature of design is well made...the general reader will be well served, especially because the case histories are so interesting and well presented in themselves..." Nature

    "...Petroski makes the case for investigating classic and historical case studies rather than recent design failures, the analysis of which is often complicated by ongoing litigation and distortions or, even more critically, by court-imposed secrecy...provides a cogent argument for reintroducing engineering history..." Robert Mark, School of Architecture, Princeton University, Science

    "...should be required reading for all engineering students and all practicing design professionals..." Journal of the Performance of Constructed Facilities

    "...discusses several models to explain how errors are introduced in design and how designers can prevent similar mistakes from occurring. Case studies present historic and recent examples of engineering failures..." Civil Engineering

    "...the anecdotal nature of the paradigms presented is intended to evoke associations with the real situations in which designers find themselves every day." Mechanical Engineering

    "...students of all branches of engineering can learn from the case studies presented. Not only engineering students but also practicing engineers will learn from the book." Choice

    "The intention of Petroski's book is to present an incontrovertible paradigmatic argument for the value of case histories, ranging from the ancient to the modern, in illuminating and elucidating the causes and results of human error in the design process, mostly of structures. The further stories, including those about many well-known bridge failures, will prove fascinating and intelligible to the non-technical reader." Times Higher Education Supplement

    "Highly recommended." ASME International

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: May 1994
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521466493
    • length: 224 pages
    • dimensions: 227 x 152 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.34kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. Paconius and the pedestal for Apollo: a paradigm of error in conceptual design
    3. Vitruvius's Auger and Galileo's Bones: paradigms of limits to size in design
    4. Galileo and the marble column: a paradigm of a design change for the worse
    5. Galileo's confirmation of a false hypothesis: A paradigm of logical error in design
    6. The design and collapse of the Dee Bridge: a paradigm of success masking error
    7. The Britannia Tubular Bridge: A paradigm of tunnel vision in design
    8. Failure as a source of engineering judgment: John Roebling as a paradigmatic designer
    9. The design climate for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge: a paradigm of the selective use of history
    10. Historic bridge failures and caveats for future designs
    11. Conclusion
    References and bibliography

  • Author

    Henry Petroski

Sign In

Please sign in to access your account


Not already registered? Create an account now. ×

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.