Henry Petroski received his bachelor's degree from Manhattan College in 1963 and his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1968. Before coming to Duke in 1980, he had taught at the University of Illinois and the University of Texas at Austin and was a group leader at Argonne National Laboratory, where he was responsible for research and development efforts in fracture mechanics. He is a professional engineer registered in Texas, and a chartered engineer registered in Ireland. At Duke, he has a secondary appointment as a professor of history. From 2004 through 2012 he held a Presidential appointment as a member of the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board.
Professor Petroski's current research activity focuses on the interrelationship between success and failure in design. He also has a strong interest in the nature of invention and in the history of technology.
His most recent book is The House with Sixteen Handmade Doors: A Tale of Architectural Choice and Craftsmanship. He is at work on a book on America’s infrastructure.