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The Life and Times of an Engineering Giant
Posted by Geoff Weisenberger on March 31, 2008 at 3:26 PM.

Professor Wai-Fah Chen is one of the major figures in the history of modern civil engineering. He is known to the steel construction community for his many contributions to structural analysis, stability theory and its applications, and behavior of connections. Many of the results of his research have found their way into several specifications of the AISC. He was a member of the AISC Committee of Specifications for many years, and he is presently an emeritus member of this group.


After his recent retirement as the dean of engineering at the University of Hawaii, he sat down and wrote a 450-page book, My Life’s Journey—Reflections of an Academic, that delightfully combines his personal life experiences and family history; a history of the intellectual and practical developments in structural engineering, engineering mechanics, plasticity theory, and geo-engineering in the past half-century; experiences in engineering education; reminiscences about teachers, colleagues, and friends; reviews of his research contributions; and general philosophical comments on the past, present, and future of the civil engineering profession in general and the academic teaching/research community in particular.


Wai-Fah Chen had a very adventurous youth during World War II and the following Chinese Civil War, eventually ending up in Taiwan where he obtained his BCCE degree. He describes these early years through a lively narrative, setting the tone for the rest of the book. Many of the readers of MSC will find their name, or the names of their teachers and colleagues, in the book. They will also be able to trace the origin of many of the criteria that are now a part of their daily design life. Engineering teachers will appreciate learning about the origins of steel design, concrete design, and soil mechanics concepts from the many books authored by Chen and his students.


Professor Chen is truly a giant in our professional field. Readers will not only be delighted and educated by this book, but will also feel proud to be part of a dynamic and creative profession.


—By Ted Galambos, University of Minnesota



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