Plenary Presentations


Mircea Z. Cohn and Donald E. Grierson

Civil Engineering Department, University of Waterloo, Canada

"In order that they may live and bring forth life, generations must continue to meet, and the teaching assume the form of a human link, awakening and activating our bond with our Father. The spark that leaps from him who teaches to him who learns rekindles a spark of that fire which lifted the mountain of revelation to the very heart of heaven… " (Buber,1956).

Initial planning for the formation of the Solid Mechanics Division (SMD) at the University of Waterloo began in 1966, and it was implemented into a formal entity following the award of a National Research Council of Canada Development Grant in 1968. Upon the departure and retirement of many of its initial members over the next thirty years, SMD was reconstituted in the mid-1990s as the Structures Mechanics & Construction Division (SMCD) to reflect the changing research interests of its more recent and new members. The collective research work of both SMD and SMCD has resulted in many publications and valuable contributions to the progress of engineering structures, mechanics and construction. This paper presents a 40-year historical perspective through to 2006 of this activity at the University of Waterloo.

1. Introduction

In the early 1960s, the University of Waterloo was only a few years old and its Faculty of Engineering was just about to produce its first graduates. D. T. Wright, the founding dean and subsequently the University’s third president, brought to the Faculty a number of promising scholars from around the world, and thus opened the prospects of vigorous progress in its innovative cooperative programs in engineering.

The Civil and Mechanical Engineering Departments acquired at the time a group of young faculty members eager to realize their academic potential and widen their research horizons. Under the leadership of A. N. Sherbourne, the next Dean of Engineering, new ways for enhancing existing capabilities of the two departments were explored. Their parallel or intersecting areas of activity in Mathematics, Theoretical and Experimental Mechanics, Soil Mechanics, Structural and Machine Analysis and Design, Material Science and Technology, etc., suggested that considerable benefits could be expected from closer cooperation and coordination of activities for groups with similar interests in the two departments.

Dean Sherbourne advanced the concept of bringing the above disciplines under a broad umbrella organism, that came to be known as the SOLID MECHANICS DIVISION (SMD), and initiated efforts to define its goals, structure and mode of operation, as well as means of formalizing its creation.

This paper describes the beginning, growth and maturing of SMD, as well as that of its successor, the STRUCTURES MECHANICS and CONSTRUCTION DIVISION (SMCD). The presentation gives a brief historical overview of these entities, offers a permanent record of results of their activities, examines the causes of related successes and failures, and draws some possible lessons from the first four decades of this academic experience.


M. Pandey et al. (eds), Advances in Engineering Structures, Mechanics & Construction, 3-29.

© 2006 Springer. Printed in the Netherlands.