Graham Gladwell (Lecturer in Vibration Theory, 1963-1966)


Graham Gladwell

Graham Gladwell

I find it curious that the major turning points in our lives are often apparently insignificant at the time. Let me illustrate.

The year is 1956, the place UCL. I have just completed my Ph.D. in Mathematics. My Department Head, Professor Dean, has lunch with Professor R.E.D. (Dick) Bishop of Mechanical Engineering. Dick asks Prof Dean whether he knew someone who could help him with some mathematics connected to vibration. Professor Dean suggests me; I walk over to his office that afternoon. Thus began a collaboration which led to the book The Matrix Analysis of Vibration; (we wrote this book with Sidney Michaelson from 1957-1962, but it did not appear until 1965), a series of papers, and a friendship which lasted until his untimely death.

The year is 1961, the place The Dept of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Georgia Tech. I was visiting from Jamaica, where I was on secondment from UCL. I happen to see an ad for a research assistant in the Dept of Aeronautics at the University of Southampton. I apply, do not get the post, but am offered a Lectureship in Vibration Theory. Thus I became one of six faculty members making up ISVR when it was founded in 1963. Only two of us, Brian Clarkson and I, survive. (Many who were research fellows or assistants are still with us).

The year is 1965, the place The University of Liège, where the International Congress on Acoustics is being held. I present a paper with the title A Finite Element Method for Acoustics. Apparently this was the first paper devoted to the application of the finite element to acoustics. Some years ago there was a conference session celebrating this event. At the same Congress I met Claus Kleesattel, a freelance researcher in New York, who works in ultrasonics. When I returned from the Congress, he came to visit me. Amazingly this encounter was the impetus for most of my subsequent research: my books Contact Problems in the Classical Theory of Elasticity (1980), Inverse Problems in Vibration (1986),(2004), Inverse Problems in Scattering (1993), Functional Analysis with application to Mechanics and Inverse Problems (1996), and many other papers.

The year is 1966, the place, ISVR. One of the students in my Vibration Theory course was Gordon Pearce. He suggested that I visit his University, the University of Waterloo, in Canada. I tell him that I will visit after I return from Jamaica, where I would be lecturing for 1966-1967. I visit him and am offered a Professorship in the Department of Civil Engineering. I arrive there in 1967 in time to be a founding member of the Solid Mechanics Division, a research centre rather like ISVR, which was in the process of formation. In 1979 I am appointed to an additional Professorship in Applied Mathematics: thus I return to my Mathematical roots.

Now for some lighter memories.

I remember coffee time in the Departmental office, with Newby Curle analyzing the latest cricket match, and Phil Doak digging out his pipe.

I remember Departmental meetings held at Prof. Richards’ house. I accused Prof of being married to his work, while I was married to my wife. The practice was stopped!

I remember sparring with Denys Mead: I called him (D.J.Mead) Damped Joints Mead; he called me (G.M.L.Gladwell) that Great Matrix Lover Gladwell.

I remember seeing Peter Davies arguing with Chris Morfey; Peter was blustery and wrong, while Chris remained quiet and right.

I remember arguing with Phil Doak over some problem in Acoustics; to Phil it seemed every quantity was either long or short compared to the wavelength.

I remember seminars addressed by Professor Cave-Brown-Cave. He always managed to include events from the life of the famous airship 101 There was a joke about Professor C-B-C. He landed by parachute on one occasion and was met by an American G.I. Prof C-B-C gravely stated his name, “Cave” adding the expanded form ”Cave-Brown–Cave”. The G.I. was taken aback for a moment; he then put out his hand and responded “Home”; “Home-Sweet–Home”!

I remember Prof being galled about how little respect he got in the University. He was a superb Engineer, researcher and administrator, but he was short, tubby and, Heaven forbid, a Welshman.

One of the other Engineering Heads, in contrast, was a tall, white-haired Englishman of impressive appearance. Though he had only a middling academic record, he was respected as a pillar of society.

My wife Joyce remembers Prof in this anecdote. Joyce is Jamaican, and Prof expressed a fellow feeling with her over the superior attitude of the English towards both the Welsh and the colonials. Then, she says, he confided this observation: “I used to think the English looked down on us. Then I realized they don’t think about us at all!”

I remember Maureen, the ultimate secretary. I teased her that she had the article I had given her typed even before I presented it to her.

For me, ISVR in the sixties was a pleasant place to work.

Dr Gladwell is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of Civil Engineering, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

Update 2017: Obituary for Graham Gladwell, who died on Saturday, March 11, 2017 at St. Mary's General Hospital in Kitchener, Ontario.