The Essential Engineer

  • by Henry Petroski
  • Narrated by Mark Deakins
  • 8 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

From the acclaimed author of The Pencil and To Engineer Is Human, The Essential Engineer is an eye-opening exploration of the ways in which science and engineering must work together to address our world's most pressing issues, from dealing with climate change and the prevention of natural disasters to the development of efficient automobiles and the search for renewable energy sources.
While the scientist may identify problems, it falls to the engineer to solve them. It is the inherent practicality of engineering, which takes into account structural, economic, environmental, and other factors that science often does not consider, that makes engineering vital to answering our most urgent concerns.
Henry Petroski takes us inside the research, development, and debates surrounding the most critical challenges of our time, exploring the feasibility of biofuels, the progress of battery-operated cars, and the question of nuclear power. He gives us an in-depth investigation of the various options for renewable energy - among them solar, wind, tidal, and ethanol - explaining the benefits and risks of each. Will windmills soon populate our landscape the way they did in previous centuries? Will synthetic trees, said to be more efficient at absorbing harmful carbon dioxide than real trees, soon dot our prairies? Will we construct a sunshade in outer space to protect ourselves from dangerous rays? In many cases, the technology already exists. Whats needed is not so much invention as engineering.
Just as the great achievements of centuries past - the steamship, the airplane, the moon landin - once seemed beyond reach, the solutions to the 21st century's problems await only a similar coordination of science and engineering. Eloquently reasoned and written, The Essential Engineer identifies and illuminates these problems and, above all, sets out a course for putting ideas into action.


What the Critics Say

"Far from being hostile toward science, Petroski pleads for continued cooperation between science and engineering. When, as Petroski laments, even President Obama has sometimes omitted engineering in touting science, this book could hardly be more timely." ( Publishers Weekly)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


If this book wasn’t for you, who do you think might enjoy it more?

someone who is obsessed with the idea that engineers don't get respect

Would you ever listen to anything by Henry Petroski again?


Who might you have cast as narrator instead of Mark Deakins?


If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Essential Engineer?

at least the first half.

Any additional comments?

this guy is completely obsessed with the idea that engineers don't get enough respect, and goes on and on about how sometimes engineers are called scientists and vice versa. it is un-listenable. i couldn't finish it, as he just talks for hours about this one completely uninteresting point.

Read full review

- alex

Book Details

  • Release Date: 23-02-2010
  • Publisher: Random House Audio