Henry Petroski, NAE


Dr. Petroski is the Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and a professor of history at Duke University. Prior to moving to Duke he was on the staff of Argonne National Laboratory, serving as a group leader in the Reactor Analysis and Safety Division. From 2004 to 2012 he held a presidential appointment as a member of the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board.

In addition to many technical reports and peer-reviewed articles stemming from his research in continuum and fracture mechanics, he has written broadly on the topics of design, success and failure, invention, and the history of engineering and technology. Among his eighteen books on these and other topics are To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design; Design Paradigms: Case Histories of Error and Judgment in Engineering; Success through Failure: The Paradox of Design; and To Forgive Design: Understanding Failure. His latest book, The Road Taken: The History and Future of America’s Infrastructure, will be published in February 2016.

In addition to his books, which have been translated into more than a dozen languages, Dr. Petroski has written many general-interest articles and essays on engineering, design, and failure for magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Wall Street Journal, and he writes regular columns on engineering for the magazines American Scientist and ASEE Prism. He has been a guest on many television and radio shows, including NPR’s All Things Considered and Science Friday, and has lectured widely in the U.S. and abroad.

Dr. Petroski has been registered as a professional engineer in Texas and as a chartered engineer in Ireland. He is a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Institution of Engineers of Ireland. He is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the U.S. National Academy of Engineering.