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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.

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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.

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Year 2006
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Publisher National Academy of Engineering, Online Ethics Center
Language English
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ModifiedTuesday, Feb 11, 2014 at 2:42 PM
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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, February 6, 2016 <>