George Bibel

Born: 1953

Ohio connection: Birth


George Bibel was born in Bedford, Ohio, in 1953, and graduated from Garfield Heights High School (1971) and received a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in 1975. In 1980, Bibel took a leave of absence from his job at Sohio, Inc., to complete a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In 1986, Bibel was awarded a one-year paid leave-of-absence to complete his dissertation on artificial nerves used in spinal cord injury patients and received a Ph.D. from CWRU in mechanical engineering in 1987. While at Standard Oil, Bibel was appointed to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Pressure Vessel Code Committee Member and wrote design rules for pressure vessels, boilers, and nuclear reactors which continue to be adopted into state law as a matter of public safety. Since the early 1990s, Bibel has been a professor of engineering at the University of North Dakota.

Bibel has written three books on engineering disasters that are, in his words, “story books that teach science…trying to fill the great void between superficial science books for a mass market and engineering textbooks.” Mechanical failure has always been one of Bibel’s professional interests that fits with his engineering background and the courses he taught, wandering into airplane crashes to make his lectures more interesting. From his research, he decided he could write a book on the topic. Bibel found Johns Hopkins University Press published popular science, science for the masses, and many scholarly books too obscure for a main line publisher and approached them with the proposal. Bibel’s plan was to explain complex engineering in user-friendly terms with a target audience of people needing no more than high school physics experience and “some knowledge and a geeky interest” in the topic. Bibel believes that “most courses exist in an island totally disconnected from other courses. That’s not real-life engineering. A good disaster story connects numerous ‘dots.’” Since writing his books, Bibel has introduced two new courses on Engineering Disasters and Airplane Crash Forensics, and Bibel’s first book was the basis of a seminar presented at Boeing. Bibel has also written an opinion/editorial piece for The New York Times entitled “Listen Up and Fly Right” (2008), has been a contributing author to the Huffington Post: “Why Can’t Modern Technology Prevent Train Wrecks?” (2012) and “Train Wrecks” (2014), and has given a talk which aired on C-SPAN2.