O C Zienkiewicz: RIP

Via an email alert from Phani, I learn of the passing away of Zienkiewicz; his book on FEM is something I tried reading when I was learning the subject.

Here is Timoshenko medal acceptance speech, in which, among other things, he also talks about the book:

Though my first personal encounter with Stephen was in 1960, he was well known to me by that time. In my Ph.D. studies, which started in 1943, his book on Theory of Elasticity became my bible. At the outset of my study with Professors Pippard and Southwell I had to acquaint myself with the earlier numerical solutions produced in 1910 by J. F. Richardson. As that work used the Airy stress function to formulate the solution, some introduction to elasticity was clearly necessary. I had many gaps in my knowledge having just completed the very brief, two-year, wartime degree at Imperial College. Therefore, after some unsuccessful encounters with various texts I followed the recommendation of a senior colleague and invested in Timoshenko’s famous book, which today still holds a privileged place in my library. That text solved my problem completely. In the first two chapters I found all that was needed and it was only his excellent presentation which made me read further.
This episode – and indeed later contact with the works of Timoshenko – made two important impressions on me. First, I realised that even quite complex ideas could be presented in a lucid form. This was most helpful to me later when I was compiling my own first book on the finite element method. Of course this was some 20 years later, but I have always tried to follow the master by avoiding the alternative process, very popular among some scientific writers. They follow the maxim quite probably coined by a German philosopher, which simply said: “Warum einfach machen wenn man auch kompliziert sein kann.”

Second, which perhaps took me longer to realise, was the fact that good teaching cannot be practised properly without underlying research. Certainly the example of Timoshenko provided an example for me when I became a young teacher.


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