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Jim Knowles passed away

James K. Knowles 14 April 1931 - 1 November 2009It is with deep sorrow that we inform you that Jim Knowles passed away today.

Updates on 7 November 2009.  A photo of Jim is received from Rohan Abeyaratne.  The following is a Caltech press release issued on the passing of James K. Knowles, William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor and Professor of Applied Mechanics, Emeritus.

James K. Knowles, William J. Keenan Jr. Professor of Applied Mechanics, Emeritus, at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), passed away November 1. He was 78 years old.

Knowles made fundamental research contributions to the theory of nonlinear elasticity and the mathematical theories of materials and structures. His work provided important insight into how various materials and structures behave and enabled him and others to develop predictive theories.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, on April 14, 1931, Knowles grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. He entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the fall of 1948, earning his bachelor's and doctoral degrees, both in mathematics, in 1952 and 1957, respectively. He then stayed at MIT for an additional year, as an instructor in mathematics.

Knowles joined the faculty at Caltech in 1958 as assistant professor of applied mechanics; he was named associate professor in 1961, followed by full professor in 1965. He spent the remainder of his academic career at Caltech, becoming professor emeritus in 1997.

Considered a remarkable teacher and mentor, Knowles inspired and influenced generations of students and scholars through classes in mathematics and mechanics. A visionary thinker, he recruited and mentored a number of junior colleagues who took Caltech in new and fruitful research directions. He had a deep affection for Caltech and served in various administrative capacities.

"Jim was the greatest mentor I ever had. He held my hand when I first came to Caltech as an assistant professor. He also taught me how to teach," says Ares Rosakis, chair of the Division of Engineering and Applied Science, and Theodore von Kármán Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering at Caltech. "He would look for the spark in people's eyes and help them make their dreams a reality. As we at Caltech seek to create the best mentoring opportunities for our young faculty, we should be guided by Jim's example."

Knowles' research was primarily focused on mathematical problems in structural mechanics, and in particular on linear and nonlinear elasticity. In 1960, he provided the first solution for a dynamical problem in finite elasticity and in 1966, he published what would turn out to be a seminal paper concerning the foundations of Saint-Venant's principle in linear elasticity theory.

His later papers on the influence of nonlinearity on point singularities, such as those found at the tip of a crack, demonstrated how they could lead to new phenomena.

In 1979, Knowles published a paper concerning the dissipation of mechanical energy during quasi-static motions of elastic bodies. This led to his later work on the evolution of metastable states of equilibrium, which had applications in phase transformations.

Knowles' contributions are described in more than one hundred journal publications. In 1998, he authored a textbook for graduate students entitled Linear Vector Spaces and Cartesian Tensors (Oxford University Press).

In 1991, he was made an honorary member of the Caltech Alumni Association in recognition of his distinguished service. That same year, the Journal of Elasticity dedicated an issue to Knowles on the occasion of his 60th birthday for "seminal contributions made to the field of elasticity.""He set an example of scholarship and fundamental thought, both broad and deep, that challenged students as well as researchers," says Roger Fosdick, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Elasticity. "He was highly inquisitive, deeply thoughtful, masterfully insightful and always seeking an explanation. He made indelible marks of value during his life both personally and professionally, and he will most certainly be missed."

Knowles' contributions were also recognized by the Society of Engineering Science with the Eringen Medal, and by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers with the Koiter Medal.

Knowles was a fellow of the American Academy of Mechanics, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and was associate editor for the Journal of Applied Mechanics. From 1985 to 1986, he served as president of the American Academy of Mechanics.

Knowles was known outside the classroom for his paintings and baritone voice.

He leaves behind a wife, Jacqueline, and sons John, Jeff, and James, and their families.

A graveside service is scheduled for Saturday, November 14, at 10:30 a.m. at Sierra Madre Pioneer Cemetery, 553 East Sierra Madre Boulevard (at the corner of Coburn Avenue and Sierra Madre Boulevard), in Sierra Madre.

The Division of Engineering and Applied Science has established a memorial fund in honor of Knowles. The fund will support the James K. Knowles Lecture in Solid Mechanics at Caltech, to be delivered annually by an internationally recognized scholar chosen by the faculty. The lecture will be followed by a workshop on solid mechanics, which will be a daylong event of talks by selected current Caltech graduate students and postdoctoral scholars in the area of solid mechanics. The Knowles lecture and workshop will commemorate Knowles' contributions to solid mechanics, his love for Caltech, and his encouragement of young researchers.

Update on 9 November 2009. If you would like to donate to the Knowles Fund you can either do so online, or by mailing a check.  Instructions for both methods are below:  

 To make on online gift to the Knowles Fund:

http://giving.caltech.edu/

  1. Click on Make a Gift (top of left menu)
  2. Click on "Special Gifts" and select the "Other" box
  3. Click on Go to Step 2
  4. Fill out the form and in the Comments Box at the end type: This gift is directed to the Knowles Fund
  5. Continue with the form from there.

Mailing a check:

Please reference the Knowles Fund on the check and/or on an enclosed memo.  Mail checks to:

California Institute of Technology
Development Office
Knowles Fund, MC 5-32
Pasadena, CA 91125

Comments

Pradeep Sharma's picture

I am very sorry to hear this....I did not know Professor Knowles personally but greatly admired his work.

Arash_Yavari's picture

This is a very sad day for me. I knew Jim personally and have been inspired by his work and the long discussions with him every time at 11 am in his office on the third floor of Thomas Building. I have admired his work and have particularly enjoyed his originality, clarity of presentation, and his honesty in explaining what is known and what is not known. He is a great example to follow. I know there are many friends here who knew him for much longer and have more to say about him. I first met Jim in late summer of 2000 a couple of months after arriving at Caltech as a graduate student. Long before going there I knew his name and that he was a big solid mechanician. He was a very kind man, very interested in discussing every problem in great detail, very patient, very humble and very deep and passionate about mechanics. In our last meeting (last January) he expressed his concerns on higher education in this country.  I laughed when he said something like, "In this country some idiots think they have a choice in accepting or not accepting a scientific theory." He was referring to Theory of Evolution. It's very hard for me to believe next time in Pasadena I won't be able to sit in his office and be inspired by his passionate and deep conversations. He will be greatly missed.

Regards,
Arash

amirs's picture

Jim was a great mechanician and a very amiable character. I had very interesting conversations with him on the subject of Kinetic Relations and the Propagation of Phase Boundaries in Solids. On my defense committee he was the first to congratulate me and encouraged me to pursue a career in academia. 4-5 years ago when Arash and I visited him in the Pasadena Huntington Hospital, he was as calm, peaceful and curious as always. I feel blessed to get to know him and learn from him. May he rest in peace. The following recognitory article in J of Elasticity (V26-3) on Jim's 60th birthday was a nice read: http://www.springerlink.com/content/r5t918027q9w0871/?p=bd657b2e25124cec8cc17fdf27df07c9&pi=1

amirs's picture

The Division of Engineering and Applied Science has established a memorial fund in honor of Knowles. The fund will support the James K. Knowles Lecture in Solid Mechanics at Caltech, to be delivered annually by an internationally recognized scholar chosen by the faculty. The lecture will be followed by a workshop on solid mechanics, which will be a daylong event of talks by selected current Caltech graduate students and postdoctoral scholars in the area of solid mechanics. The Knowles lecture and workshop will commemorate Knowles' contributions to solid mechanics, his love for Caltech, and his encouragement of young researchers.

A graveside service is scheduled for Saturday, November 14, at 10:30 a.m. at Sierra Madre Pioneer Cemetery, 553 East Sierra Madre Boulevard (at the corner of Coburn Avenue and Sierra Madre Boulevard), in Sierra Madre. http://today.caltech.edu/today/story-display?story%5fid=39822

Zhigang Suo's picture

A press release from Caltech on Jim Knowles is added to the post.

jason Zhu's picture

I am sorry to hear that.

A great pioneer in machanician pass away.

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