Developer of Finite Element Analysis Method Ray Clough Dies

November 10, 2016


Ray William Clough, Ph.D., P.E., NAE, Dist.M.ASCE, renowned as a developer of the finite element method for structural analysis of buildings, has died. He was 96.

Clough was professor emeritus of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. He was a faculty member at Berkeley’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering from 1949 to 1987, and served as Earthquake Engineering Research Center director from 1973 to 1977.

It was on a sabbatical leave in Trondheim, Norway, in 1956-57, that Clough developed the theories that would become the finite element method. He coauthored a paper in 1956 outlining the method, forever changing the field of structural analysis and the design of buildings and other structures.

In the 1960s, Clough had the vision to see how powerful computers could be in conducting structural analyses on giant structures. He published a series of papers that became the basis for commercial computer programs, now industry standards. His paper, “Dynamics of Structures,” written with Joseph Penzien in 1975, is still widely used.

Clough joined ASCE in 1942 and was a Life Member. He was elected to the 1988 class of Distinguished Members.

Among his many honors, Clough received the National Medal of Science in 1994 from President Bill Clinton and the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Civil Engineering in 2006.

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