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PROFESSOR WILHELM FLÜGGE (1904 - 1990)

Memorial Resolution by Professors James Gere, George Hermann and Charles Steele:

After a period of declining health, Wilhelm Flügge died at his home in Los Altos, California, on Monday, March 19, 1990, one day after his 86th birthday.

Wilhelm Flügge was born on March 18, 1904, in Greiz, then a capital of a little principality which was later incorporated into a state of the German Republic. His father was a protestant minister who took the family to Dresden when Wilhelm was at the age of six. There he graduated from high school in 1921 and the Technical University, with the Diploma of Engineer (Dip. -Ing.) in Civil Engineering, in 1925. After serving as an assistant to Professor K. Beyer, he received the Doctor of Engineering (Dr. -Ing.) in 1927. For the next three years in Leipzig and Wiesbaden, he was involved in the development of new ideas of thin-shell construction in reinforced concrete for factories, train stations and observatories. In 1930, he accepted an appointment for post-doctoral work at the University of Göttingen, then a leading center of mathematics, engineering, and science with such prominent figures as Hilbert and Prandtl. Flügge became Privat-Dozent (comparable to an assistant professor) in 1932. He was co-founder of the journal Zentralblatt für Mechanik in 1933. A major event of the Göttingen years was the meeting of Wilhelm Flügge and Irmgard Lotz, who was a research worker in Prandtl’s group, devoted to fundamental questions of fluid dynamics. The “Lotz method” for calculating the lift on a three-dimensional wing was devised at that time, which became a standard technique used internationally. However, the position of a female in the world of science and engineering was difficult. Wilhelm has told of the secretary who served tea to the group at the weekly conference, but refused to serve Irmgard: “She can make her own tea.”

In 1934 Flügge published the book for which he is widely known, Statik und Dynamik der Schalen, the first text on the theory of shell structures. Several editions have been published of the German text and of the updated English version, which first appeared in 1960 as Stresses in Shells. For almost twenty years, this book held a unique place for engineers the world over. It served as the handbook for designers of concrete roofs, pressure vessels for storage and power generation, as well as aircraft, and served as the established point of departure for countless analytical and experimental research investigations. Even after numerous other texts on the subject have appeared, this book continues to occupy the position of primary reference. A significant portion consists of original work by Flügge which is the standard of comparison, often referred to as “classical”, for both simpler and more elaborate theories. Among his subsequent publications was the Handbook of Engineering Mechanics, 1962.

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Prof. Wilhelm Fluegge (1904-1990)

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