William LeMessurier-The Fifty-Nine-Story Crisis: A Lesson in Professional Behavior

William LeMessurier

William LeMessurier, one of the nation's most distinguished structural engineers, served as design and construction consultant on the innovative Citicorp headquarters tower, which was completed in 1977 in New York. The next year, after a college student studying the tower design had called him to point out a possible deficiency, LeMessurier discovered that the building was indeed structurally deficient. LeMessurier faced a complex and difficult problem of professional responsibility in which he had to alert a broad group of people to the structural deficiency and enlist their cooperation in repairing the deficiency before a hurricane brought the building down.

His story was recounted in detail in "The Fifty-Nine-Story Crisis," which appeared in the May 29, 1995 issue of The New Yorker, and on November 17, 1995, LeMessurier himself came to MIT, from which he received his doctorate, to speak to prospective engineers about the decisions he had to make and the actions he took.

 

William LeMessurier, one of the nation's most distinguished structural engineers, discusses ethical dilemmas he faced with structural deficiencies in the design of the Citicorp headquarters.

Download the video clip:

( QuickTime File , MPEG File)

  (quick time)   (mpg)

 

 A full copy of the lecture is also available for download.

The Story of the Citicorp Tower

All images displayed herein, unless otherwise noted, courtesy William LeMessurier.This page and supporting pages were created by Eric Plosky for Caroline Whitbeck at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Cite this page: "William LeMessurier-The Fifty-Nine-Story Crisis: A Lesson in Professional Behavior" Online Ethics Center for Engineering 6/23/2006 National Academy of Engineering Accessed: Saturday, November 01, 2014 <www.onlineethics.org/Topics/ProfPractice/Exemplars/BehavingWell/lemesindex.aspx>



The Diane Hartley Case
  • Addendum: The Diane Hartley Case

    This addendum to the William LeMessurier Story of the Citicorp tower was added in January of 2011. It includes information about the young engineering student who originally directed LeMessurier's attention to the deficiency in the tower's design.