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Booz Allen Hamilton Distinguished Colloquium in Electrical and Computer Engineering
"The Importance of Engineering: Why Science Alone Will Not Solve Global Problems"
Prof. Henry Petroski
Professor of Civil Engineering
Engineers and scientists are often grouped under the single rubric, “scientists,” but this masks some fundamental differences in how engineers and scientists think and what they do. The situation is perpetuated by the mass media and by popular culture that, when they make a distinction at all, promote professional stereotypes that are not helpful for developing an informed public, discriminating politicians, and enlightened public policy.
Although the methods and goals of engineers and scientists often overlap in the real world of research and development, they can be at cross purposes when it comes to solving global problems. This talk will discuss some historical achievements of engineers that scientists had declared impossible. The interrelationship between scientists and engineers in responding to the recent Gulf of Mexico oil spill will also be discussed.
Henry Petroski is the Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and a professor of history at Duke University. He has written broadly on the topics of design, success and failure, and the history of engineering and technology. His dozen or so books on these subjects include To Engineer Is Human, Design Paradigms, and Engineers of Dreams, which deal principally with large structures like bridges. He has also written about small, common things in his books The Pencil, The Toothpick, The Evolution of Useful Things, The Book on the Bookshelf, and Small Things Considered. A memoir about delivering newspapers in the 1950s and about what predisposed him to become an engineer is entitled Paperboy. His latest book, titled The Essential Engineer: Why Science Alone Will Not Solve Our Global Problems, is about the difference between scientists and engineers and how science and engineering approach global problems.
In addition to his books, which have been translated into more than a dozen languages, Petroski has written many general-interest articles and essays for magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Wall Street Journal, and he writes regular columns for both American Scientist and ASEE Prism. In addition, he lectures frequently to audiences in the U.S. and abroad, and has been interviewed often on radio and television. He has been profiled in the New York Times, Smithsonian, U.S. News and World Report, and many other newspapers and magazines. Before moving to Duke in 1980, Henry Petroski was on the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin and on the staff of Argonne National Laboratory. He is a registered professional engineer in Texas and also a chartered engineer in Ireland.
Petroski has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Humanities Center. Among his other honors are the Ralph Coats Roe Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers; the Washington Award from the Western Society of Engineers; and the Civil Engineering History and Heritage Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers, whose history and heritage committee he now chairs. He has received four honorary degrees and is the recipient of distinguished engineering alumnus awards from Manhattan College and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Henry Petroski is a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Institution of Engineers of Ireland. He is also an honorary member of the Moles and an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the U.S. National Academy of Engineering.
This Event is For: Campus • Clark School • Graduate • Undergraduate • Prospective Students • Faculty • Staff • Post-Docs • Alumni • Corporate • Donors