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G. R. Irwin: the father of Fracture Mechanics

BoJing Zhu's picture

Technology, Law and Insurance, Volume 2, Issue 1 March 1997 , pages 43 - 47


It was Griffith.

Kirch (1898), Inglis (1914) and apparently Kolosov (1907) had analysed stress concentration (due to circle, ellipse and ellipse, respectively). But only Griffith had that brilliant insight about including the energy of the crack surface in the analysis too (early 1920s).

Irwin came much later--off-hand, I would suppose, sometime during or after the II world war.

BoJing Zhu's picture

1.Thank your commnet.

2 many great researchers contribute to the field of fracture mechanics( Engineering fracture mechanics).

3.every body know that Griffith status in this field(even a novice like me). 

4.this let me think about a book "The da Vinci Code".


When Pearl Harbor was attacked my uncle was nearing the completion of his masters in physics. He joined the Navy and they asked him to continue his studies at the University of Illinois. In the midst of getting his Ph.D. the Navy ordered him to report to Naval Research Laboratory. There he became a member of George Irwin's research team. We used to have the results of some of their experiments. They were pieces of armor plate that had bullets stuck halfway through them. My grandfather used them as paperweights. I think a lot of their work had to do with armor. My uncle was interested in fibers and did work on flak jackets: body armor. They knew that fabrics could stop bullets as they had woven small strands of steel that could do it, but there was no fiber during WW2 that was strong enough. Kevlar would come along later. When I was in my 20s I worked for a hot-air balloon manufacturer. We had a balloon rip from top to bottom, and all the occupants were killed. We were looking at a massive lawsuit. I told the owners of the company that I thought my uncle could help them. He came out to our little factory in North Carolina and met with the FAA engineers. In just a few minutes he was able to turn them completely around on their theories as to why the balloon envelope failed. My uncle was a brilliant man, and he spoke very highly of George Irwin many times in my presence.

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