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Lessons amid the Rubble

An Introduction to Post-Disaster Engineering and Ethics

The aftermath of September 11, 2001, brought the subject of engineering-failure forensics to public attention as had no previous catastrophe. In keeping with the engineering profession's long tradition of building a positive future out of disasters, Lessons amid the Rubble uses the collapse of the World Trade Center towers to explore the nature and future of engineering education in the United States.

Sarah K. A. Pfatteicher draws on historical and current practice in engineering design, construction, and curricula to discuss how engineers should conceive, organize, and execute a search for the reasons behind the failure of man-made structures. Her survey traces the analytical journey engineers take after a disaster and discusses the technical, social, and moral implications of their work. After providing an overview of the investigations into the collapse of the Twin Towers, Pfatteicher explores six related events to reveal deceptively simple lessons about the engineering enterprise, each of which embodies an ethical dilemma at the heart of the profession. In tying these themes together, Pfatteicher highlights issues of professionalism and professional identity infused in engineering education and encourages an explicit, direct conversation about their meaning.

Sophisticated and engagingly written, this volume combines history, engineering, ethics, and philosophy to provoke a deep discussion about the symbolic meaning of buildings and other structures and the nature of engineering.

About the Author

Sarah K. A. Pfatteicher is a research professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and an assistant dean in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Endorsements

A valuable addition to the literature and an excellent source for illustrating the shortcomings of conventional engineering problem solving.

- John A. Ochsendorf, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Reviewss

The aim is to blend history, engineering, ethics, and philosophy into the design process with implications for the future curricula of engineering design courses.

- Choice

Just the sort of resource that everyong from civil engineers to historians of technology will find helpful in guiding students to appreciate some of the complexities and subtleties of the profession and practice of engineering.

- Karl D. Stephan - IEEE Technology and Society Magazine

Pfatteicher's retrospective on more than 100 years of engineering history in North America through the lens of the 9/11 experience is a unique contribution to engineering self-understanding. It is a valuable contribution to ongoing reform in engineering education.

- Wang Nan - Technology and Culture
Johns Hopkins University Press
Johns Hopkins Introductory Studies in the History of Technology
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