The Atom and the Fault by Richard L. Meehan; MIT Press, 1983

This is a detailed, well presented, superbly argued and absolutely fascinating account of one episode in the continuing interaction between science, technology, the law and the public interest. It once and for all puts to rest the idea that science uses a well defined and unambiguous method and speaks with a single voice. It makes it clear that experts participating in and testifying before a public forum are often outside their domain of expertise and therefore speak as laypersons, not as experts. It shows the need for public standards regulating the use of expert knowledge. Containing vivid portraits of the individuals participating in the debate, it shows how even very abstract considerations are influenced by the character and the temperament of those producing them. Required reading for historians of science and technology, philosophers of science, regulatory commissions and the members of citizens' boards dealing with scientific and technological matters.

 --Paul Feyerabend
University of California and Federal Institute of Technology
Zurich, Switzerland

Getting Sued and Other Tales of the Engineering Life by Richard L. Meehan MIT Press, 1975

Meehan's book is nine chapters, nine stories beginning with his freshman year at MIT in 1957. He goes in the army, he goes around the world to Thailand, he goes down the world to Chile. I could not stop following him. He really has no extraordinary adventures; what makes the book extraordinary is his power of observing and reflecting on himself and what happens around him. He has a special appeal as a subject since he seems to occasionally go out of control but never out of focus.  Maybe his years as a civil engineer investigating the stability of land to hold dams and support buildings have benefited his huge literary talents. There is something very special about these stories. The book has a shocking ending where he seems to promise the reader that he is finishing himself off in a lucrative dreariness in Palo Alto, but then if you remember the book's beginning you see that he thrives by taking turns others don't.

 --Steve Baer
Coevolution Quarterly