Henry Petroski, the Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and a professor of history at Duke University, will speak at Asheville School on Thursday, April 24, at 7:15 p.m. in Graham Theater. Petroski has written broadly on topics of design, success, and failure. He will discuss the history of engineering and technology during Asheville School’s Founders’ Day Convocation.
His latest book, The House with Sixteen Handmade Doors: A Tale of Architectural Choice and Craftsmanship, looks critically at one man’s approach to design and construction and celebrates his unique achievement. The new book features the photography of his wife, Catherine, and will be published by W.W. Norton in early May.
Petroski’s visit is part of the Asheville School Pope Series for the Humanities and is free and open to the public, but with limited general admission seating available. After his presentation, Petroski will lead a short question and answer session, followed by a book signing in the Crawford Music House.
Associate Head of School Jay Bonner says Petroski’s visit was planned to coincide with Asheville School’s “year of science” theme in celebration of the school’s new state-of-the-art science center.
“In conjunction with the opening of the Vandergrift Science Center this academic year, we planned to bring in writers with a scientific bent who also are established as writers—wielding the pen with as much grace as a slide rule or microscope,” Bonner said. “I came to Dr. Petroski’s work, ironically, after being a fan of his wife’s first collection of stories, published back in the early 1980s. Over the years, however, I have been reading Dr. Petroski’s work with avid interest. He makes bookshelf design or the design of the pencil or paper clip a story of human ingenuity.”
In addition to his 17 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 the magazines American Scientist and ASEE Prism.
“Dr. Petroski’s interests remind us of the importance of failure: how we learn from failure so as to eliminate larger problems or more egregious disasters in the future—an important point for a risk averse culture like a school,” Bonner says. “The point, though, is to make sure the risk is limited as opposed to systemic!”
Henry Petroski is 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. Click here, to read more about Petroski’s new book, The House with Sixteen Handmade Doors: A Tale of Architectural Choice and Craftsmanship. (https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/henry-petroski/the-house-with-sixteen-handmade-doors/)