Wehausen’s training in mathematics and his exceptional language abilities were recognized when he was selected as executive editor of Mathematical Reviews in 1950, a post he held until 1956, when he was recruited by UC Berkeley. There he helped establish the Department of Naval Architecture, developing a graduate-degree program that stressed hydrodynamics and structural mechanics in the marine field. That rigorous academic curriculum eventually became a model for similar programs worldwide. In 1996 the department became a Graduate Group in Ocean Engineering within the Graduate Division. Starting in the fall of 2005, the group became a major field of study within UC Berkeley’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Besides being a popular and dedicated teacher, Wehausen contributed to original scientific research in the areas of ship waves, ship maneuverability, floating systems in waves, and ship-generated solitary waves. He was an advocate of systematic theoretical analysis based on rational mechanics principles. In an era when engineers are building container ships with capacities of 10,000 containers, floating offshore oil production systems for operation in water depths exceeding 2,000 meters, and marine vehicles that travel at extreme speeds in high sea states, his visionary approach based on first principles has become all the more important.
His review articles are especially highly regarded. In 1960 he published the 350-page article “Surface Waves” (with the late UC Berkeley Professor Edmund Laitone) in Handbuch der Physik. This synthesis of the field has had such a wide and long-lasting impact that it was republished in 2002 in an online version to provide free access for a worldwide audience (http://www.coe.berkeley.eduSurfaceWaves). Two other authoritative reviews—“The Wave Resistance of Ships” in Advances in Applied Mechanics (1974) and “The Motion of Floating Bodies” in Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics (1972)—are considered classics in his field.
Wehausen retired from UC Berkeley in 1984, but for many years remained active in research and university affairs. Among his other activities, he chaired the Committee on Memorial