An Historical Perspective of Failures of Civil Engineering Works

by Neal FitzSimons, Engineering Counsel, Kensington, MD, USA,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Forensic Engineering: Learning from Failures


The blight of failures has smitten civil engineering works since ancient times. An examination of historic cases reveals relationships to contemporary cases that are useful in guiding the development of policies and programs to reduce the incidence of failures. Considering human experience, knowledge and attitudes, a framework of teletic, technical and natural systems is useful for the study of these failures. Ignorance, incompetence, negligence and avarice are the four horsemen of the engineering apocalypse.

Subject Headings: Historic sites | Engineering history | Failure analysis | Architectural engineering | Structural failures | Human factors | Case studies | Frames

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