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Honorary doctorate for 'giant of engineering science'
2 September 2013

Klaus-Jürgen BathHonorary graduation: Yesterday UCT bestowed a Doctor of Science in Engineering, honoris causa, on 'giant of engineering science' and alumnus Professor Klaus-Jürgen Bathe (right), pictured with Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price.

UCT has bestowed a Doctor of Science in Engineering, honoris causa, on alumnus and 'giant of engineering science' Professor Klaus-Jürgen Bathe, in recognition of his contributions to the advancement of computational engineering mechanics.

A special ceremony in the Leslie Social Sciences Building on Sunday 1 September took place ahead of the fifth Conference on Structural Engineering, Mechanics and Computation (SEMC 2013), where Bathe is one of the keynote speakers.

German-born Bathe is hailed as a pioneer in the field of finite element analysis, a technique to find approximate solutions to partial differential equations.

In her citation, university orator Professor Alison Lewis said: "He is not only a pioneer, but also unique in the way that his work has bridged the worlds of academia and industry. Besides being the celebrated Professor of Computational Mechanics at MIT, he is also the developer of the most advanced and very widely used finite element programme in the world today.

"So, on the one hand, his academic works are highly cited and his textbooks are considered to be the gold standard. On the other, his very successful company, ADINA, is regarded as the leader in fluid-structure interaction analysis (which enables the analysis of aeroplanes in bad weather, suspension bridges in high winds and the blood flow through arteries). ADINA is also a leader in analysis of solids and structures and in computational fluid dynamics.

She continued: "Professor Bathe considers that his involvement in ADINA improved his ability both to teach and to do research. He says: 'It would have been difficult for me to just write papers and books on finite element methods that did not stand the tests of use in real engineering problems'. In fact, it was the continuous demands of the leadership of the company that kept his interest in teaching and researching at MIT alive."

Bathe's love of travel, adventure, learning and knowledge first brought him to South Africa several decades ago, specifically to UCT's Department of Civil Engineering where he graduated as the best engineering student and Gold Medallist in 1967.

He returned to UCT years later to complete a Doctor of Science degree, after further studies in Canada and the US. (He also holds a PhD in civil engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.)

The honorary degree from UCT adds to Bathe's list of similar honours from institutions that include the University of Buenos Aires, the Slovak Academy of Sciences and Technical University of Zilina, Slovakia; the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany; the Technical University of Rzeszow, Poland; the Technical University of Madrid, Spain; the University of Bucharest, Romania; and the University of Miskolc, Hungary.

Over the decades Bathe has maintained his links with UCT and sponsors the Klaus-Jürgen Bathe Scholarships for students "who show evidence of high intellectual power and commitment to the achievement of excellence in the field of engineering".

Story by Helen Swingler. Image by Katherine Traut.

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