Henry Petroski (b. 1942)

American engineer, author, and educator. A New York City native, Petroski received his bachelor’s degree from Manhattan College and his doctorate in mechanics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Currently he teaches civil engineering and history at Duke University, specializing in failure analysis. Having a particular knack for explaining engineering to the non-specialist, Petroski delights in revealing the technological complexity behind everyday objects like pencils and toothpicks. He is a frequent contributor to the magazines American Scientist and Prism; his dozen books include To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design (1985), The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance (1990), Invention by Design: How Engineers Get from Thought to Thing (1996), and a memoir, Paperboy: Confessions of a Future Engineer (2002). Petroski’s most recent book is The Essential Engineer: Why Science Alone Will Not Solve Our Global Problems (2010). See also cee.duke.edu.