Jan D. Achenbach

2014 Monie A. Ferst Award 

Professor Achenbach was born in Leeuwarden, Jan D. Achenbachthe Netherlands. He studied aeronautical engineering at Delft University of Technology, and received a PhD in aeronautics and astronautics from Stanford University in 1962. After a year as a post-doctoral fellow at Columbia, he was appointed assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at Northwestern University. Since 1963 he has been at Northwestern, except for sabbatical leaves to the University of California (UCSD) and the Delft University of Technology. In 1981 he became the Walter P. Murphy Professor in the Departments of Civil Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, and in 1992 he became Distinguished McCormick School Professor. He is now emeritus status. 

Achenbach is an expert on the propagation of waves in solids. Over the years he has made groundbreaking contributions in research on a number of topics including waves and vibrations in viscoelastic solids (PhD Dissertation, 1962), dynamic behavior of composite materials (1964-1975), dynamic effects on fracture (1968-1985), and acoustic microscopy (1985-1995). Since 1985 the emphasis of his work has been on the theory and applications of ultrasonic methods to quantitative non-destructive evaluation, particularly on the measurement of elastic properties of thin films by acoustic microscopy, and the detection of cracks and corrosion in safety-critical structures. In recent years he has worked on the development of probabilistic methods for structural health monitoring of fatigue damage in structural components for the purposes of diagnostics and prognostics. His pioneering ideas have often defined new directions of research. 

Achenbach and co-workers also contributed significantly to the practical application of ultrasound to detecting cracks and corrosion in metal structures. An example is the detection of corrosion and stress-corrosion cracks in the wing box of the DC-9. Achenbach was the leader of a team that developed an ultrasonic technique that reduced the inspection time dramatically. The team was awarded the 1997 Model of Excellence by the McDonnell-Douglas Company.

Achenbach is the author of a well-known book entitled Wave Motion in Elastic Solids (Elsevier Science, 1973), and a recent book entitled Reciprocity in Elastodynamics (Cambridge University Press, 2003), as well as numerous papers in technical journals.

He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1982, the National Academy of Sciences in 1992, and elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1994. He became a corresponding member of the Royal Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1999, and an honorary foreign member of the National Academy of Sciences, Republic of Korea, in 2010. He was awarded the ASME Timoshenko Medal in 1992, the SES William Prager Medal in 2001, the ASCE Raymond D. Mindlin Medal in 2009, the ASCE Theodore Van Karman Medal in 2010, the 2012 ASME Medal, and ASME honorary membership in 2002, as well as a number of other awards. He received an honorary doctorate from Zhejiang University, China, in 2011, and the position of honorary professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology in 2012. 

Achenbach has supervised over 40 PhD students and numerous postdocs, many of whom occupy important positions in academia and industry, here and abroad. In 1993 he was elected to the Chicago Tribune All-Professor Team in the sciences for his teaching and mentoring. His principal book,Wave Propagation in Elastic Solids, was extremely well received, and is still in print. The book is probably still the most frequently referred book in the general area of waves in elastic solids. In 2004 he received the Tutorial Citation Award from the American Society of Nondestructive Testing. 
He has devoted considerable time to service to National and International Societies. He was the founder of the journal WAVE MOTION, and served as the editor-in-chief from 1979 until 2011. 

In 2003 he was awarded the US National Medal of Technology for engineering research and education in the use of ultrasonic methods, and in 2005 he received the US National Medal of Science for pioneering the field of quantitative nondestructive evaluation.