Why things break


Journal Article

The widespread industrial application of iron in the development of railroads has brought the growth of cracks and the fracture of parts containing them to the attention of engineers. Engineers realized the importance of understanding the ultimate cause of such failures in order to build reliable railroad systems. Failures that have gained much attention included the Dee Bridge failure in 1847 and the Tay Bridge collapse in 1879. According to the most recent inquiries on the two accidents, failure in the former occured because of metal fatigue initiated at the esthetic flourish and in the latter fatigue crack growth that initiated as a result of casting the bolt holes directly into the lugs. These and other recent accidents show that metal fatigue is an old but not yet fully conquered cause of structural failure that is proving to be the root cause of accidents that have been debated for over a century.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Petroski, H

Published Date

  • May 1, 2007

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 95 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 206 - 209

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0003-0996

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1511/2007.65.375

Citation Source

  • Scopus