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Gems of Structural Engg - Prof. P. Ferguson - (Post-13)

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 31, 2010 4:56 am    Post subject: Gems of Structural Engg - Prof. P. Ferguson - (Post-13) Reply with quote

Prof. Phil M. Ferguson

(1899 - 1986)

General :-

Prof. Phil M. Ferguson, a leading pioneer in developing basic theory and design procedure for reinforced concrete structures and an outstanding civil engineering educator, passed away on August 28, 1986 at the age of 86. He was Dean T. U. Taylor, Professor Emeritus in Engineering at the University of Texas, Austin and had been teaching until his retirement in yr 1976. His distingushed scholarship and his leadership in development of an internationally reconganised 'Structural Engineering Program' at the University of Texas, Austin were fittingly recognised, the "Phil M. Ferguson Structural Engineering Laboratory" established in 1979 is also popularly known.

Education :-

Prof Ferguson was born in Bartlett, Texas on November 10, 1899. When he was about seven his father, a dentist, moved to Waco; he completed his elementary and secondary education in Waco Public School, graduating in Yr. 1917. During summer he took a secretarial business course, and worked a year with the Gulf Refining Co. at their warehouse. In the fall of 1918 Phil rode the train from Waco to Austin and entered the college of Engineering. In 1922, he received his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and a fifth year Civil Engineering Degree in 1923. He enrolled for post-graduate studies at University of Wisconsin, which was best known American Center for reinforced concrete higher studies. He recived Master of Science degree in 1924. Then he joined Dwight P. Robinson Co. at New York as a Structural Engineer, were he was involved in design and construcion of power plants, industrial buildings and high rise structures.

Professional Life :-

In the spring of 1928, Dean T. U. Taylor offered him a job as an Associate Professor to fill a vacant position. Since Phil's father had passed away several months earlier, he felt family responsibility, so he accepted the offer. For over two decades after he joined the University of Texas faculty, Professor Ferguson devoted his energies largely to the teaching programs at what was then a predominantly undergraduate institution. He was promoted to what Professor in Yr. 1938. He served as Chairman of Civil Engineering Dept. from 1943 to 1957, and played a leading role in establishment of the department's graduate engineering programs, supervising the first doctoral student in Civil engineering at Texas. As Chairman, he still carried a heavy teaching load and personally supervised more than his hsare of growing number of graduate students.

In contrast to many academic researchers, Phil Ferguson personal research and writing carrer did not bloom until he was past his 50th birthday. In the late 1940's he got introduced to the world of Destructive testing of reinforced concrete structural elements such as beams, slabs and columns. He approached a testing machine wth considerable hesitancy but with aid of his colleagues, he soon lost this termity. He soon became one of the nation's leading structural researchers with his ability to meld the behavior of structural elements with theory. He contributed much to the technology of reinforced concrete design because he was a patient researcher looking for the truth in analyzing why members and systems failed.

Because of his tenacity, he was always conscious of the need to load enough test specimens to failure to enable his students, himself, and his colleagues to be certain of their conclusions. He was a strong advoate for clarity in writing of reports and papers. He coauthers of many papers appreciated his writing skilss and enjoyed his willingness to polish and complete the tasks they had undertaken. His first serious, original paper at the national level was published on three-dimensional structural analysis in Yr. 1950. This was followed by a number of papers exploring shear and diagonal tension in reinforced concrete which were recognised by ACI for prestigious Wason Medal in yr. 1954 and 1958.

After this his research got rapidly developed and his writings became internationally acclaimed. His teaching ability was recognised by a General Dynamics Award for Teaching excellence in Yr. 1962.
The large amount of research work made his to frame his famous book 'Reinforced Concrete Fundamentals', which was published by ACI. This was the first step to Ultimate strength Design. Till 1979, the book was revised four times. His research continued ahead which was awarded with Wason Medal, the Raymond C. Reese Structural award ect.

Personal Life :-

In his service of 48yrs. He was the most active member of ACI, that time. Which helped him do many changes in academics and the Professional practice also. At the end of 48yrs he separated himself from active teaching. Last three years he spent in close contact with his family (his son Yale Ferguson, daughter-in-law Kitty, grand children- Colin, Duff and Caitlin). This gave him a lot of comfort in the declining years.
Far beyond his technical and professional contributions. Prof Phil Ferguson will be remembered for his spirit for his un-compromising integrity, dedication to fundamental engineering principles, and stimulation to young minds.

Professor Ferguson always devoted the last half hour of the last meeting of the semester in his class of reinforced concrete to presenting a personal challenge to the new engineers, asking them to be 'truly professional' as Civl Engineers in the communty following graduation. He gave emphasis to "giving something back" and "being involved with the community" as an engineer.

Reference :
- 'In Memorium' - published by Prof. John Breen for University of Texas

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