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May 28, 1997

Design Paradigms: Case Histories of Error and Judgment in Engineering

Author Affiliations

HCA-Wesley Medical Center Wichita, Kan

JAMA. 1997;277(20):1651. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03540440085041

This book demonstrates the value failure has in achieving success. Written by an engineer, the chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Duke University, it illustrates principles as important to the successful practice of medicine as they are to engineering. The book comprises case histories of engineering failures, dating back to the first century BCE. The most dramatic examples are bridges that collapsed and ships that sank; the most recent is the 1981 collapse of an interior walkway of a large Kansas City, Mo, hotel in which more than 100 people died. The importance of the case histories, aside from their historical interest and the beauty of nature that the physical principles reveal, resides in the author's analyses of the way in which failure occurred, and how, in retrospect, failure made a unique contribution to eventual success.

How is this related to medical practice? Petroski's analytic style