Nathan M. Newmark

Educator, internationally famous engineering leader, consultant

By Professor Emeritus William J. Hall & Professor Emeritus John D. Haltiwanger

Nathan M. NewmarkNathan M. Newmark was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, on September 22, 1910. He attended Rutgers University and as an undergraduate received many prizes, graduating with High Honors and Special Honors in Civil Engineering in 1930. He received M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in civil engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1932 and 1934. He held a succession of positions in the department, becoming Research Professor of Civil Engineering (CE) in 1943. From 1947 to 1957 he also served as Chairman of the Digital Computer Laboratory of the University. In 1956 he was appointed head of the CE Department and held that position until 1973. He continued on the faculty as a Professor of Civil Engineering until 1976, at which time he retired with the rank of Professor Emeritus.

During World War II, Newmark was a consultant to the National Defense Research Committee and the Office of Field Service of the Office of Scientific Research and Development; for his service he was awarded the President's Certificate of Merit in 1948. He was awarded five honorary degrees: Rutgers University (1955); the University of Liege, Belgium (1967); the University of Notre Dame (1969); National Civil Engineering Laboratory of Lisbon, Portugal (1972); and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1978).

Newmark was a Founding Member of the National Academy of Engineering in 1964, and was elected as a Member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1966. His numerous honors include the 1968 National Medal of Science from President Lyndon B. Johnson; the prestigious Washington Award (1969), an award given collectively by the major engineering societies of the United States; the John Fritz Medal (1979); and the 16th Gold Medal in the 57-year history of the Institution of Structural Engineers of Great Britain (1980). Only one other American engineer has received this latter medal, namely Hardy Cross who had served on this faculty previously. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) honored Newmark with the James R. Croes Medal (1945), the Mosseiff Award (1950), the Normal Medal, and the Ernest E. Howard Award (1958), and the Theodore von Karman Medal (1962). He received the Wason Medal of the American Concrete Institute (1950) and the Vincent Bendix Award from the American Society for Engineering Education (1961). He received numerous other honors, awards and citations, including honorary membership in ASCE (1966), the American Concrete Institute (1967), the American Society for Mechanical Engineers (1971), the International Association for Earthquake Engineer¬ing (1969), and the Seismological Society of America (1980). His publications include more than 200 books and papers.

Newmark developed simple, yet powerful and widely used, methods for analyzing complex structural components and assemblies under a variety of conditions of loading and for calculating the stresses and deformations in soil beneath foundations. He contributed significantly to a better understanding of the behavior of structural materials under various environments including fatigue and brittle fracture. He added materially to knowledge of the behavior and design of highway bridge decks and floor slabs in buildings and structures subjected to impact, periodic excitation, wave action, wind, blast and earthquakes.

Industrial organizations and governmental agencies sought Newmark's consultation on major seismic, structural and geotechnical projects. The survival without damage of the 43-story Latino Americana Tower — on which Newmark was earthquake design consultant — during the 1957 and 1985 Mexico City earthquakes attests to his insight and ability. Design criteria for the military protective construction program within the United States, nuclear reactor facilities in the United States and abroad, the Bay Area Rapid Transit System, the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, large dams throughout the world, and other major structures and systems have been based in large part on his personal studies and on the reports and publications prepared by him and his associates.

It is no accident that there grew up around Newmark one of the most active research centers in civil engineering in the country and one of the nation's largest groups of advanced students in civil engineering, or that the alumni of this group have assumed broad leadership in education, industry and government and in the technical work of the armed services. Newmark possessed an unusual ability to attract young people to the field of civil engineering, to inspire them with the confidence to undertake new and varied tasks, to guide but not direct their thinking, and to ensure that as individuals they received appropriate recognition. His penetrating insight, keen engineering judgment, and genuine interest in people were a constant source of inspiration to all who had the privilege of working with him.

A more comprehensive summary of Newmark's career appears in "No Boundaries: University of Illinois Vignettes" (U of I Press, 2004) edited by Lillian Hoddeson.

Nathan Newmark died on January 25, 1981. His wife, Anne May (Cohen) Newmark, died several years later. He is survived by three children: Richard Newmark, Susan Mayfield and Linda Bylander.