Lessons

SMD was a memorable episode in the UW Faculty of Engineering: great talent and work pre­existed its creation and subsisted its demise. But its early years energized and brought out the best of existing potential and raised it to a level of high academic distinction and achievement. Not only did SMD live up to its commitments, but it amply exceeded the expectations of its founding members and caused our university to be recognized as a real force in the world of solid mechanics.

While we started this survey with the intention of factually recording the SM activities over approximately the last forty years, we may be excused if the intended writing objectivity has suffered occasionally: some of the old passion for SMD ideals could not be entirely eliminated while undertaking this memory trip.

Perhaps we may also be indulged in a little literary flight of fancy by viewing the SMD story as a real academic saga with not a few rather dramatic ingredients: indeed, on a close look, the evolving process of creation, development, stagnation and renewal are quite obvious. However, the less obvious conflicts of authority between an old departmental structure and a superimposed (perceived) rival new entity, jealousy and personality clashes, tradition versus innovation, loyalty and deception, growth, decay and redemption, all major themes of the classic drama are, or may be assumed, as part of this narrative. And so might have been pain, dissatisfaction, disappointment, and resistance to change, which are seldom absent at transitions from old to new.

Yet, in spite of all the ups and downs, a dominant leit-motif is discernible throughout the entire SMD project: fostering learning and inspiring human interaction between the old and the young, regardless of contingent circumstances. Whether funded adequately or not at all, the commitment to excellence was, and apparently will remain, the leading motivation of the UW group of scholars active in the fields of structures, mechanics and construction.

4. Structures, Mechanics and Construction Division (SMCD)