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Professor Olek C Zienkiewicz: 1921-2009

Professor Olek C Zienkiewicz, widely regarded as the 'Father of the Finite Element Method', has died. Born in Surrey in 1921, he was one of the early pioneers of the Finite Element Method and is cited as being the first to recognise the general potential for using the method outside the area of solid mechanics.

His books on FEA were the first to present the subject and to this day remain standard reference texts for all those dealing with analysis. His own contribution to the Method's development made it the widely applicable tool of computational mechanics and engineering that it is today. He also founded the first journal dealing with computational mechanics in 1968 (International Journal for Numerical Methods in Engineering ), which is still the major journal in the field of Numerical Computations.

“Professor Zienkiewicz inspired a generation of eminent researchers and practitioners” , commented Tim Morris, NAFEMS CEO. “No-one who has made their career in FEA can have failed to hear of him, and all of us are indebted to him for the contributions that he made to establishing the technology that so many have been able to widely exploit. He will be correctly remembered as one of the leading forefathers of the finite element method."

Prof. Zenkiewicz attended primary and secondary schools in his native Poland, and obtained his BSc, PhD and DSc at Imperial College, London.

He was the recipient of many awards, including the title of Commander of the British Empire, the prestigious Royal Medal of the Royal Society from HM Queen Elizabeth II, the Carl Friedrich Gauss Medal of the West German Academy of Science, the Nathan Newmark Medal of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Newton-Gauss Medal of the International Association for Computational Mechanics, the Gold Medal of the Institution for Mathematics and its Applications, a Gold Medal from the Institution of Structural Engineers and the Timoshenko Medal of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Professor Zienkiewicz received honorary degrees from Ireland, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, China, Poland, Scotland, Wales, France, England, Italy, Portugal, Hong Kong, Hungary and the United States.

He was elected to the Royal Society and The Royal Academy of Engineering in 1979 and was a Foreign Member of the United States National Academy of Engineering, the Polish Academy of Science, the Italian National Academy of Sciences and the Chinese National Academy of Sciences

Professor Zienkiewicz passed away on Friday January 2nd 2009, and at that moment, the engineering community lost one of its true pioneers. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.