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The History of the Theory of Structures: Searching for Equilibrium, 2nd Edition

The History of the Theory of Structures: Searching for Equilibrium, 2nd Edition

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Ten years after the publication of the first English edition of The History of the Theory of Structures, Dr. Kurrer now gives us a much enlarged second edition with a new subtitle: Searching for Equilibrium. The author invites the reader to take part in a journey through time to explore the equilibrium of structures. That journey starts with the emergence of the statics and strength of materials of Leonardo da Vinci and Galileo, and reaches its first climax with Coulomb's structural theories for beams, earth pressure and arches in the late 18th century. Over the next 100 years, Navier, Culmann, Maxwell, Rankine, Mohr, Castigliano and Müller-Breslau moulded theory of structures into a fundamental engineering science discipline that - in the form of modern structural mechanics - played a key role in creating the design languages of the steel, reinforced concrete, aircraft, automotive and shipbuilding industries in the 20th century. In his portrayal, the author places the emphasis on the formation and development of modern numerical engineering methods such as FEM and describes their integration into the discipline of computational mechanics.
Brief insights into customary methods of calculation backed up by historical facts help the reader to understand the history of structural mechanics and earth pressure theory from the point of view of modern engineering practice. This approach also makes a vital contribution to the teaching of engineers.
Dr. Kurrer manages to give us a real feel for the different approaches of the players involved through their engineering science profiles and personalities, thus creating awareness for the social context. The 260 brief biographies convey the subjective aspect of theory of structures and structural mechanics from the early years of the modern era to the present day. Civil and structural engineers and architects are well represented, but there are also biographies of mathematicians, physicists, mechanical engineers and aircraft and ship designers. The main works of these protagonists of theory of structures are reviewed and listed at the end of each biography. Besides the acknowledged figures in theory of structures such as Coulomb, Culmann, Maxwell, Mohr, Müller-Breslau, Navier, Rankine, Saint-Venant, Timoshenko and Westergaard, the reader is also introduced to G. Green, A. N. Krylov, G. Li, A. J. S. Pippard, W. Prager, H. A. Schade, A. W. Skempton, C. A. Truesdell, J. A. L. Waddell and H. Wagner. The pioneers of the modern movement in theory of structures, J. H. Argyris, R. W. Clough, T. v. Kármán, M. J. Turner and O. C. Zienkiewicz, are also given extensive biographical treatment. A huge bibliography of about 4,500 works rounds off the book.
New content in the second edition deals with earth pressure theory, ultimate load method, an analysis of historical textbooks, steel bridges, lightweight construction, theory of plates and shells, Green's function, computational statics, FEM, computer-assisted graphical analysis and historical engineering science. The number of pages now exceeds 1,200 - an increase of 50% over the first English edition.
This book is the first all-embracing historical account of theory of structures from the 16th century to the present day.
Foreword of the series editors
Foreword by Prof. Ekkehard Ramm
Preface to the second English edition
About this series
About the series editors
About the author
1 The tasks and aims of a historical study of the theory of structures
2 Learning from history: 12 introductory essays
3 The first fundamental engineering science disciplines: theory of structures and applied mechanics
4 From masonry arch to elastic arch
5 The history of earth pressure theory
6 The beginnings of a theory of structures
7 The discipline-formation period of theory of structures
8 From construction with iron to modern structural steelwork
9 Member analysis conquers the third dimension: the spatial framework
10 Reinforced concrete's influence on theory of structures
11 The consolidation period of theory of structures
12 The development and establishment of computational statics
13 Thirteen scientific controversies in mechanics and theory of structures
14 Perspectives for a historical theory of structures
15 Brief biographiesof 260 protagonists of theory of structures
Name index
Subject index
About this Edition

"[...] K.-E. Kurrer's book is a compreshensive treatise on the theories that are used for analysis and design of structures from the earliest days (Archimedes? lever principle) to the present (finite element method). Those who have read the first edition of the book will be surprised by the huge amount of history and knowledge which has been added in the second edition. One can still read the individual chapters in isolation without losing the broad view on the total. The book is well illustrated with pictures, graphs, historical drawings and sketches, which makes for entertaining reading. It contains a wealth of information and is therefore a source for historians, especially interested in the history of technology, but also for professional engineers and graduate students of engineering and art history. The book is a necessary element of libraries and engineering departments."
em. Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dr. h.c. Dr. E.h. Hans-Wolf Reinhardt, University of Stuttgart, Germany (RILEM's website:, July 2018)

About the First English edition 2008

"[...] Ultimately, this is an extraordinary book that should be in every engineering library and on the bookshelf of every structural engineer who aspires to make a difference in the design, development, and preservation of civil infrastructure."
Prof. Sashi K. Kunnath, University of California, Davis, USA (Journal of Structural Engineering, March 2009, pp. 330-331)

"[...] Kurrer's achievement in compiling this book is colossal, and I commend it to anyone interested in the subject. It will, for a long time, stand well along side the other classics of the field - Timoshenko's "History of Strength of Materials", and Eduardo Benvenuto's "Introduction to the History of Structural Mechanics". [...]"
Dr. Bill Addis, Buro Happold, London, UK (International Journal of Space Structures, Vol. 23, No. 3, July 2008, p. 194)

"[...] As you can tell from my enthusiasm, I recommend this highly original study, first as a pleasure to read and a thoughtful examination of new avenues to explain the development of human understanding, and also as an aid and inspiration for further research."
Prof. Dr. Tom F. Peters, Lehigh University, USA (Technology and Culture, July 2009, Vol. 50, pp. 669-674)

"[...] Kurrer's book is truly a masterpiece. In the 800-plus pages, one finds no end of new and interesting pieces of information that contribute to the history of the theory of structures. [...]"
Prof. Dr. Harry H. West, The Pennsylvania State University, USA (Journal of Architectural Engineering, Vol. 14, Issue 4, December 2008, p. 130)

"[...] Whenever you want to learn about the subject or just want to browse through history - this is the book! It is certainly a must for every historically interested engineer as well as for historians of science. "The Kurrer" will become the standard reference book and will stay in that position for many years to come."
Prof. Dr. Thomas Sonar, Institute of Computational Mathematics, Technische Universität Braunschweig, Germany (ZAMP The Journal of Applied Mathematics and Physics, Vol. 60 (2009), p. 581)

"[...] German publisher Ernst & Sohn has brought to the English-speaking public this substantial monograph by Karl-Eugen Kurrer, which is a revised and considerably extended version of the highly successful 2002 German edition Geschichte der Baustatik. The additional content, especially the inclusion of more international developments, makes this book of truly worldwide significance."
Prof. Dr. Andreas Kahlow, Berlin, Germany (Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Engineering History and Heritage, Vol. 164, February 2011, Issue 1, p. 55)

"[...] For the time span covered (1575 to the present), this is the most complete recent book on the topic of methods of structural engineering design [...]."
Prof. Dr. Thomas Boothby, The Pennsylvania State University, USA (Isis (History of Science Society), Vol. 100, Issue 3, pp. 639-640 (September 2009))

"[...] The book certainly contains a wealth of interesting information, and I believe that every department of structural engineering ought to have a copy on its shelves."
Prof. Dr. Kolbein Bell, Department of Structural Engineering, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway (Marine Structures, Vol. 22, 2009, pp. 855-856)

"[...] The book contains a wealth of information and will be an important reference text for engineers and historians who wish to understand or write about any specific aspect of the history of structures. Especially, those who teach this subject should find this book to be a rich source of information. It does much more than to discuss the science, however, because we meet the major figures who played significant roles and we learn much about them personally. [...]"
Dr. Hubert I. Flomenhoft, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, USA (Progress in Aerospace Sciences, Vol. 45, 2009, pp. 80-81)

"[...] Undoubtedly for many readers Kurrer's book represent an excellent opportunity to gain different perspectives and to broaden horizons. For others it will simply be a pleasure to browse and read, and tobe reminded of structural engineering's incredible intellectual underpinnings. Highly recommended."
Prof. Dr. Robert Melchers, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, Australia (Australian Journal of Structural Engineering 2008, Vol. 8, No. 3, p. 259)

"[...] The author had twin goals in writing this book. One was the history of the development of structural engineering in detail, the second was to provide a didactic scientific theory, construction history, and biographical and bibliographic perspective, providing a union between science and the humanities. This goal has succeeded in large measure due to [...] Kurrer's knowledge of the subject and his ability in organizing the material. The English translation from the original German is very good, with only a few typographical errors and solecisms."
Dr. Ralph Francis, University of New Brunswick, Canada (Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering 2008, Vol. 35, pp. 1486-1487)

"[...] Kurrers book is fascinating and it has already become part of my teaching. I would like to recommend it not only to students and civil engineers; it is of great interest to all interested in load-bearing structures, wherever in aerospace engineering, mechanical engineering, sport-equipment industry, etc. It is an opus of uniqueness."
Prof. Dr.-Ing. habil. Norbert Gebbeken, University of armed forces, Munich, Germany (ZAMM Journal of Applied Mathematics and Mechanics, Vol. 88, No. 10, October 2008, p. 792)

"[...] It is clear that Dr. Kurrer has succeeded in combining the rigorous and the romantic in a work that should become classic reading for the discerning mechanician, engineer and architect.[...]"
Prof. Dr. Milija N. Pavlovic, Imperial College London, UK (Engineering Structures, 2008, Vol. 30, p. 2957)

"[...] The history of structural engineering was started by Todhunter and Pearson, and continued by Timoshenko in his "History of Strength of Materials" dating from 1953 (already available in Japanese). After that, half a century passed before this author, based in Europe, presented us with very many original documents that may well attract readers to explore the science of the history of structural engineering by reading this book."
em. Prof. Dr.Eng. Minoru Yamada, Kobe University, Japan (Journal of Architecture and Building Science, Vol. 123 (1582), 2008, No. 11, p. 77)

"[...] It is the first to offer an overview of the development from the conventional structural theory to structural and computional mechanics during the last century. Brief summaries of the development of common calculation methods, supported by historic sketches, provides insides to the history of structural mechanics and present-day calculation methods."
Dipl.-Ing. Dietmar Rippegather, Editor-in-Chief "Welding and Cutting" (Welding and Cutting, 5/2008, p. 314)

"[...] It would form a valuable resource in any library concerned with the history of structures or development of structural theories and methods, and a reference work for any teacher and student in this areas."
Peter R Smith, MArch PhD Sydney, FAIA, University of Sydney, Australia (Architectural Science Review, Volume 51, Number 4, December 2008, pp. 415-416)

"[...] this book is an outstanding achievement of its author since it illustrates the history of the theory of structures, throughout ages, from its very beginnings until the present day. It can be a very good help in teaching of structural mechanics and of some related subjects. Surely, it puts a substantial impact on the proper development of civil engineering students and their teachers. Also, it is valuable for the practising engineers, who can enlarge their professional and intellectual qualities. Certainly, they will find the importance of knowledge passing from one generation to another [...]."
Prof. Dr. hab. Inz. Zbigniew Cywinski, Gdansk University of Technology, Poland (Archives of Civil Engineering, Vol. LIV, 2008, Issue 3, p. 650)

"[...] This book offers fascinating insights into the emergence of theory of structures and structural analysis itself on various levels. [...]"
Dr.-Ing. Holger Eggemann, Hegger+Partner Ingenieure, Aachen (Steel Construction - Design and Research, Vol. 1, Sept. 2008, Issue 1, p. 93)

"[...] Kurrer offers us a highly interesting work on a fascinating subject, carefully and detailed explained, which may help all engineers and scientist to find the historical roots of science. In particular, this book will be highly welcome to all teachers in the field of mechanics."
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Albrecht Bertram, chair of Strength of Materials, Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg, Germany (Technische Mechanik, Vol. 30, 2010, Issue 4, p. 414)

"[...] The structure of the book makes it a joy to read, for its avoids the sequential approach taken in many histories in favour of a thematic approach which allows the reader to follow the key themes in depth without being sidetracked by developments in unrelated fields. The author also provides a well-balanced narrative of mathematical details, practical engineering, and the people themselves involved with various aspects of the history of structural theory."
Dr. Bill Addis, Buro Happold, London, UK (CONSTRUCTION HISTORY - Journal of the Construction History Society, Vol. 23 (2008), pp. 138-139)

"[...] An encyclopaedic work of this extension and completeness has never been published before, and one is amazed that it has been the fruit of the culture and the patience of a single scholar."
Prof. Dr. Piero Villaggio, Dipartimento Ingegneria Strutturale, Università di Pisa, Italy (Journal of Elasticity, Sept. 2008, Vol. 93, pp. 199-202)

"[...] This unique book, written by an expert on the subject, presents an authoritative account of the history of the theory of structures. The author presents the historical developments with a critical spirit and philosophical perspective. The book is well written and organized. It is highly recommended to the engineer, the teacher, the scientist and the researcher who is interested in the historical developments of the evolution of the theory of structures."
Prof. Dr. Emmanuel E. Gdoutos, Democritus University of Thrace, Xanthi, Greece (Strain, Vol. 45, Issue 4, pp. 387-388 (August 2009))