Book of the Week: The Ethical Engineer

The Ethical Engineer [Source: Amazon]

This week’s selection is “The Ethical Engineer” by Robert McGinn.

Ethics are something that is frequently in short supply these days in some disciplines, but in engineering ethics is a very serious requirement. Engineers build the structures we live and work within, the machines we use everyday and the vehicles that carry us across the world. In some cases, these designs are a matter of life and death. 

This book takes a tour of the ethics of engineering, treating it as a responsibility, rather than an optional aspect. The author believes some changes in engineering education could benefit everyone. 

Concepts are conveyed to the reader via a series of case studies. Many are catastrophic engineering failures that may be familiar to readers. The 18 case studies include: 

  • The Cadillac DeVille/Seville Engine-Control Chip

  • SDI Battlefield Management Software

  • Collaborative Research Practices at Bell Labs

  • The Apple Newton MessagePad

  • An Employee Database Management System

  • The CitiCorp Center Tower

  • The Union Carbide Pesticide Plant in Bhopal

  • The Space Shuttle Challenger

  • A Composite-Material Bicycle Project

  • Nanotechnology R&D

  • The Ford Pinto

  • Crematorium Ovens for the Nazi SS

  • TRW and the US Missle Defense System

  • The Hyatt Regency Kansas City Hotel

  • The Manhattan Westway Project

  • Innovations For Rural Kenyan Farmers

  • Google Street View

  • Opiod Biosynthesis and Neural Enhancement

I’m certain as you read through the titles of those case studies you will recognize a number of challenging ethical situations. 

The book then proceeds to discuss various aspects of ethical engineering, such as whistleblowing, education, normalization, sociological effects, persuasion, negligence, conflicts of interest and much more. 


Ethics are critically important for our future. If you have an interest in increasing your knowledge of ethics in engineer, this book could be a great source of knowledge. 

Via Amazon

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