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William Hovgaard, Expert testimony on the Titanic, Luisitania and Shenandoah disasters 1915-1925

Engineers often speak of learning more from failures than from successes. In the modern world, there is the expectation that technological systems will work perfectly. Thus, systemic breakdowns can cause society to lose faith in the scientific enterprise. Much rides, then, on the testimony given by the expert witness.

William Hovgaard was an internationally renowned Danish naval architect. In 1901, the U.S. Navy arranged for Hovgaard to be appointed professor of naval design at MIT so that he might organize a special three-year course in “Naval Architecture and Warship Design.” In addition to maritime vessels, Hovgaard also was an expert on the design of rigid airships. Displayed here are documents related to his work on three of the most prominent disasters in the early 20th century: the Titanic, Lusitania, and Shenandoah.

On loan from the Institute Archives and Special Collections.

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  • If the Titanic hit an iceberg why wasn’t it smashed during the impact? The insurance company was already claiming the cause before evidence was sufficient to make the cause a certainty. Why could they have been able to divulge inconsequential evidence in this way?

    Bob MacDonald
    17 Dec 12 at 5:35 pm