Elected in 1983
“For outstanding contributions to finite element theory, to its dissemination to engineering practice, to teaching, and to administration of engineering education.”
BY RICHARD S. GALLAGHER
SUBMITTED BY THE NAE HOME SECRETARY
RICHARD H. GALLAGHER, a pioneer of the finite-element method (FEM) in industry, who later had a distinguished career as an engineering dean, provost, and university president, died of cancer on September 30, 1997, in Tucson, Arizona, at the age of 69. He received the highest honors for his work not only as an industry expert but also as a teacher, mentor, and academic leader. Internationally known and widely honored for his expertise in engineering mechanics and his pioneering work on FEM, a fundamental mathematical technique used throughout the world in computer simulations of engineering behavior, Gallagher’s efforts paved the way for the development of a multibillion dollar industry and thousands of careers and improved millions of lives.
Born on November 17, 1927, in New York City, Gallagher described his early decision to become an engineer as an afterthought. Following his service in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he enrolled at New York University (NYU), where he “checked off civil engineering as a major, thinking that it might be interesting to build bridges.” After earning a master’s degree from NYU and working for the Federal Aviation Administration and the Texas Company, he moved in the 1960s to the Buffalo area, where he created a premier development group in aerospace structural analysis at Bell Aerosystems; he eventually became assistant chief engineer at Bell.