|Dr. N. Subramanian
Joined: 21 Feb 2008
Location: Gaithersburg, MD, U.S.A.
|Posted: Tue Nov 15, 2011 3:57 pm Post subject: Prof. C. A. Cornell-a pioneer in probability and reliability
|Prof. C. ALLIN CORNELL (1938-2007)
C. Allin Cornell, Professor Emeritus of Civil and Environmental Engineering and a pioneer in probability and reliability methods applied to engineering decision making, died after a two year struggle with cancer on December 14th, 2007. He was 69 years old.
Always on a first‐name basis with colleagues and students, “Allin” was the consummate gentleman, scholar and giant in his field. Beginning with his landmark 1968 paper, “Engineering Seismic Risk Analysis”, Allin invented the field of probabilistic seismic hazard analysis, which has since become the basis for characterizing seismic ground motions for the design of constructed facilities in the United States and throughout the world. His book, Probability, Statistics, and Decision for Civil Engineers, written with Jack Benjamin and published in 1970, opened up new ways of thinking for an entire generation of civil engineers. Since then, his continuous contributions to risk and reliability analysis, which are concerned with quantifying wind, wave, and earthquake loads and their effects on structures, have formed the basis for analysis methods and building code provisions that have greatly improved public safety.
Education and Experience
Born in South Dakota in 1938, Allin attended Stanford University where he received an A.B. (1960) in architecture and an M.S. (1961) and Ph.D. (1964) in civil engineering. He served on the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1964 to 1983 before returning to Stanford as a Research Professor. He became an emeritus faculty in 2005 but stayed active in research, consulting and advising graduate students until his death.
Awards and Honors
Allin was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1981 at the age of 42, for the “development of practical methods for application of probability to structural and earthquake engineering.”
The Earthquake Engineering Research Institute honored Allin as the 1999 EERI Distinguished Lecturer and awarded him the Institute’s highest honor, the Housner Medal, in 2003. The Seismological Society of America recognized Allin with its most prestigious award, the Harry Fielding Reid Medal, in 2001, and the American Society of Civil Engineers awarded him the Huber Research Prize in 1971, the Moisseiff Award in 1977, the Norman Medal in 1983 and 2003,
and the Freudenthal Medal in 1988. In 1987, Allin was the inaugural recipient of the Civil Engineering Risk and Reliability Association (CERRA) Award from the International Civil Engineering Risk and Reliability Association, and in 2009 the CERRA award was renamed the C. Allin Cornell Award.
His work and seismic‐hazard mapof the United States
Allin’s research interests in probability and risk‐informed decision making spanned fields from engineering seismology to reliability of marine structures and nuclear power plants to performance‐based earthquake engineering. In his 1968 paper on “Engineering Seismic Risk Analysis” Allin outlined an approach that related probabilistic models of earthquake rupture and ground motion attenuation to shaking hazard intensity at specific building sites. This paper was
the basis for the first seismic‐hazard map in the United States that used probability theory, published by the U.S. Geological Survey in 1976.
Use of his theory in Nuclear Power Plant safety
Allin’s probabilistic approaches that integrated environmental loads with system response formed the basis of risk‐informed safety assessment and design of nuclear power plants and, most recently, the safety of nuclear waste storage at Yucca Mountain.
Research on Marine Structures
In the late 1980’s, Allin shifted his research focus to marine structures and developed a large research program that was jointly funded by the federal government and industry to investigate a broad range of reliability issues in characterizing wind, wave and earthquake loading effects in the design and maintenance of offshore platforms, wind turbines, ships and other marine structures.
In the mid‐1990’s, Allin’s focus shifted back to earthquake engineering, where he was instrumental in establishing a probabilistic framework for performance‐based earthquake
engineering that integrates the uncertainties in characterizing ground motions, structural response, and losses to arrive at probabilistic values of decision metrics for planning and design.
performance‐based building codes
This probabilistic framework has since been adopted for research planning and eventual implementation in performance‐based building codes by the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center, the Applied Technology Council, and other organizations.
The profession will remember Allin for his ground breaking contributions and for his unique ability to combine brilliance in probability with sound engineering knowledge and judgment. His colleagues will remember Allin as a superb collaborator who always was willing to share his deep knowledge and insight for the good of the team. His students will remember Allin as the ideal mentor in every respect. And all of us will remember Allin as a warm, friendly, caring, and helpful human being. Our profession has lost a leader and visionary, but Allin’s impact will be felt for a long time through his ideas and the many people he influenced.
Outside of work, Allin enjoyed time with his family. He had the rare joy of having one of his children, Eric, win the 2001 Nobel Prize for physics, but he was equally thrilled with Ariane’s high
school basketball games or any quality times shared with his wife and children. Allin is survived by Elisabeth Paté‐Cornell, the Burt and Deedee McMurtry Professor of Engineering and chair of the Department of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford; his five children, Eric, Robert, Phillip and Ariane Cornell and Joan Fazzio; and his two sisters, Joan Scheel and Bonnie
1. Corotis R.B., McGuire R.K., Baecher G.B. (2009). Eminent Structural Engineer: Dr C. Allin Cornell (1938-2007). "Structural Engineering International", 2:220-221. http://www.elearning-iabse.org/board/EminentEng/C.%20Allin%20Cornell_2_2009.pdf