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Ronald S. Rivlin

Konstantin Volokh's picture

 Ronald S. Rivlin (1915-2005)Ronald Rivlin has probably made the crucial contribution to shaping the discipline of Nonlinear Continuum Mechanics which underlies the modern powerful finite element software. Rivlin was decorated with many awards including the Timoshenko medal. Unfortunately, his Timoshenko speech is not available. Fortunately, Springer published two volumes of collected works of Rivlin. I extract an account of Rivlin's results and thoughts from the book and attach it on PDF. The reading of Rivlin is both interesting and instructive.

Rivlin 84 speech.pdf10.73 MB


Zhigang Suo's picture

Dear Kosta:  Thank you very much for scanning this paper.  Years ago I bought the two volumes of the collected papers of Rivlin at a very low price, when they were marked as publisher's remainders in a bookstore.  The volumes were well produced, and I have returned to them from time to time for illumination. All the papers in the two volumes are searchable at Amazon.

The volumes also contain a 30-page autobiographic postscript, which describes circumstances that led to various projects in his long and distinguished career.  He ended the postscript with a sad note on the conditions of research familiar to us.  Here is a small sample:

"...most people have found it increasingly difficult and frustrating to obtain government support for their research.  This is due, in part, to the increased demands of an expanding university community.  More importantly, from the mid 1960s on there has been an increasing emphasis on the part of the funding agencies on "mission relevance," first in the defense departments and then in the National Science Foundation.  To make matter worse, the missions seemed to change every few years, if not more often.  Of course, "mission" has always been a factor in funding by the defense departments, but until the mid 1960s it was, for the most part, rather liberally interpreted."

Also see the following in the beginning of his autobiographic sketch:

"...the climate of research at about that time and the emphasis on so-called "relevance" led to a change in the motivation for my choice of problems.  While this had inhibiting effects on my research, I doubt that it did, in fact, make it more relevant".

Konstantin Volokh's picture

Dear Zhigang,

I also was lucky to purchase the volumes at low price Laughing

I do plan scanning the autobiographic sketch and posting it here when I have a bit more time.

Rivlin seemed to be a deep thinker and a witty person. I especially like that he regarded mechanics as a part of physics resisting the widespread tendency of dressing mechanics with clouds of the mathematical jargon.

Dear Konstantin.

Those scanned pages were an excellent read.  Does a similar article by Eshelby exist?

I particularly like the bit about Truesdell:

"In his writings Truesdell evidences a strong taste for the dramatic and so there has been created a fantasy world in which various savants produce a strem of principles, fundamental theorems, capital results, and work of unusual depth."

He could also have added a bit about the extensive use of unpronouncable old German and Hebrew letters in the Handbuch der Physik.   Life is easier if one has to learn only a small set of symbols - as the people on this forum who can read Chinese  can readily verify.

-- Biswajit 

Pavel Galich's picture

Dear Kosta,

Thank you very much for pointing out on the Rivlin's works.

BTW, Collected Papers of R.S. Rivlin: Volume I and II in good quality are available here -



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