Petroski Elected to American Philosophical Society

Henry Petroski, Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and professor of history, was elected April 29 to the American Philosophical Society, the oldest learned society in the United States.
The society was founded in 1743 by Benjamin Franklin for the purpose of “promoting useful knowledge.” It supports research, discovery and education through grants and fellowships, lectures, publications, prizes and exhibitions. Early members included George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, James Madison, and John Marshall. In the nineteenth century, John James Audubon, Robert Fulton, Charles Darwin, Thomas Edison, and Louis Pasteur were among those elected.
Petroski, a professor of civil engineering and history at Duke, was honored earlier this year with the 2006 Washington Award, one of the oldest and most prestigious engineering awards in the country, for his accomplishments in making engineering theory and practice understandable to the general public.
He is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering
He, who has been a member of the Duke faculty since 1980, has written broadly on the topics of design, success and failure, and the history of engineering and technology. His books on these subjects, which are intended for professional engineers, students and general readers alike, include “To Engineer Is Human,” which was adapted for a BBC television documentary, and “Design Paradigms,” which was named by the Association of American Publishers as the best general engineering book published in 1994.

Petroski has also written books on commonplace objects, including such titles as “The Pencil” and “The Evolution of Useful Things,” and Success Through Failure: The Paradox of Design.” His books have been translated into Chinese, Finnish, German and Hebrew, among other languages.
In addition to numerous technical articles in refereed journals, Petroski also has written non-technical articles and essays for newspapers and magazines. He writes the engineering column in the bimonthly magazine American Scientist and a column on the engineering profession for ASEE Prism. He lectures to both technical and general audiences, in the U.S. and abroad, and has been interviewed on National Public Radio, the Today Show and News Hour with Jim Lehrer.