Ted Belytschko, Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Northwestern Department of Mechanical Engineering, Dies at Age 71

September 16, 2014

Ted Belytschko, Ph.D., M.ASCE, a world-renowned computational mechanician whose innovative and fundamental contributions to solid mechanics have helped solve previously intractable engineering problems, passed away on September 15 at the age of 71. A Walter P. Murphy Professor and McCormick Distinguished Professor of Computational Mechanics at Northwestern University, Belytschko’s main interests lay in the development of computational methods for engineering problems. He developed explicit finite element methods that are widely used in crashworthiness analysis and virtual prototyping. Recently, he worked on meshfree methods, techniques for representing arbitrary discontinuities in finite elements, and multiscale coupling methods. Born January 13, 1943, Belytschko earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanics and his Ph.D. in engineering sciences at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He joined the faculty at Northwestern University in 1977 and had been a professor of computational mechanics since 1991; since 2003 he had been a McCormick Distinguished Professor. He was chair of the Northwestern Department of Mechanical Engineering from 1997 to 2002. While at Northwestern, Belytschko chaired the committee that developed the Engineering First program at Northwestern, and also collaborated with colleague Cate Brinson to introduce finite element and matrix concepts into strength of materials and statics courses. A highly sought after consultant and a prolific writer and author of both books and more than 400 journal papers, Belytschko had an international reputation for his research activities. Editor-in-chief of the International Journal for Numerical Methods in Engineering, he was also coauthor of Nonlinear Finite Element Methods for Continua and Structures with W. K. Liu and B. Moran, and of A First Course in Finite Elements with J. Fish. Keynote speaker at the 2008 Engineering Mechanics Institute’s International Inaugural Conference and chair of the Executive Committee of ASCE’s Engineering Mechanics Division in 1982, Belytschko used molecular mechanics to study the fracture and behavior of nanotubes and developed methods for coupling heterogeneous subdomains, such as molecular and continuum models. Among his many distinguished honors and awards, Belytschko received ASCE’s Theodore von Karman Medal in 1999 and ASCE’s Walter Huber Research Prize in 1977. He also received the William Prager Medal from the Society of Engineering Science in 2011, the John von Neumann Medal from the U.S. Association for Computational Mechanics in 2001, the Timoshenko Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 2001, and the Gauss-Newton Medal from the International Association for Computational Mechanics in 2002. A member of the National Academy of Science (2011) and the National Academy of Engineering (1992), Belytschko’s greatest role was as a respected teacher and mentor.

1 Comment
  • I was shocked and saddened to just learn this news! Ted Belytschko was truly a distinguished contributor and innovator in computational mechanics, and a fine gentleman. His passing is a great loss to the mechanics community.

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