Wordy Persians and Unlicensed Mechanicians!

Here is the Timoshenko Medal Acceptance Speech of Sia Nemat-Nasser (whose Micromechanics book, co-authored with Hori, I read in parts and enjoyed), which begins thus:

Before I start, let me mention my wife, Eva’s contribution to this lecture. She said to me to make a draft first and then she would be happy to help me to tighten it up later on. After a day and half’s work, I took the result to her who quickly informed me that: it was much too long, contained too much unnecessary details, and that, it can be reduced by 3/4th without losing anything significant!

After another several hours of effort, I took the product to her who immediately requested further reduction, by at least a factor of two!

This process went on for a few cycles when, finally, she said: “if you cut it in half, then it might be OK.”

I did.

She looked at it and asked me to read it out loud.

I read: “Ladies and gentlemen, and the Timoshenko Medal Committee, thank you very much.”

“Now, that is a good after dinner speech”, she shouted.

Then she thought for a minute and said: “You Persians are very wordy. If you leave out the ‘very much’, and just say ‘thank you’ then it would be a great after dinner speech!”

I wish to first thank our gracious MC, Professor Dan Inman, for his generous introduction.  I would also like to thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for being here tonight, after several arduous political weeks of having repeatedly heard from Joe the Established Politician, Joe the Unlicensed Plumber, and Jack the Unknown Electrician, just to mention a few, to hear from Sia, the also Unlicensed Mechanician.

Of course, Northwestern figures prominently in the piece:

The next stroke of good luck was when I met George Herrmann who came to Berkeley to present a seminar.  My advisor, Colin Brown, in passing, suggested that I should talk with Professor Herrmann who was then looking for a post-doc.

A trip to the library taught me that Northwestern University was located in Evanston, Illinois, with the largest number of churches per capita in the United feature at the time and associated with Berkeley activists, I shaved my beard before the interview, being rather amazed that George had noticed it before, and asked me why I had shaved off my beard and that it actually looked good  on me.  I simply said, “If you give me the position, I will grow it back”.  He did and I did.

The intellectual life at Northwestern was vibrant and remarkably enriching.  It was there that I not only had the good fortune of meeting Eva, and with her creating a new chapter in our family life, but also, I met and made life-long friends with some of the most intelligent and creative applied mechanicians of our generation, several of whom have already been honored by the Timoshenko and other ASME medals.

It was during my 15 years at Northwestern that, I feel, my scientific growth took place, in major part because of close association and collaboration with colleagues, such as John Dundurs, Toshio Mura, Jan Achenbach, Leon Keer, Zdenek Bazant, and, later on, Ted Belytschko, not to mention more established luminaries, such as Hans and Julia Weertman, as well as Morrie Fine.

There, I had the opportunity to move into new areas, such as soil mechanics in relation to earthquake-induced liquefaction, rock failure and fracturing in relation to hot dry-rock geothermal energy, and the mechanics of frictional granules, just because it was fascinating.  Timoshenko’s teaching that embodied the application of rigorous mechanics principles, the necessary applied mathematics, and a great deal of intuitive physical insight, was indeed the key to most of my contributions.

I also enjoyed having some very outstanding coworkers and graduate students such as Monte Mehrabadi, Minoru Taya, Tetsuo Iwakuma, Hideyuki Horii, Makoto Obata, and Muneo Hori, as well as a number of outstanding Japanese visitors and post-docs, thanks to Toshio Mura who provided the bridge between Northwestern and the Japanese mechanics community.

Take a look!


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