"When Henry Petroski and his wife Catherine bought a charming but modest six-decades-old island retreat in coastal Maine, Petroski couldn't help but admire its unusual construction. An eminent expert on engineering, history, and design, he began wondering about the place's origins and evolution: who built it, and how? What needs, materials, technologies, historical developments, and laws shaped it? How had it fared through the years with its various inhabitants?"--Dust jacket flap.