ROBERT M. KENEDI
BY EUGENE F. MURPHY
ROBERT MAXIMILIAN KENEDI, professor emeritus of the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, had a productive and distinguished career in several branches of engineering and applications both to conventional engineering fields and to plastic surgery. He also worked effectively in numerous countries, cultures, and continents. In 1976 he was elected a foreign associate of the National Academy of Engineering.
Born March 19, 1921, in Budapest, Hungary, Kenedi completed elementary school with distinction in an outstanding school in Budapest. He then moved to Glasgow, Scotland, where he began a first phase of education and striving for certified professional status. He graduated with first class honors in civil engineering at the University of Glasgow. He earned a diploma with distinction and associateship of the Royal Technical College (RTC) in civil engineering and a Ph.D. in structural engineering at the University of Glasgow. In 1956 the Royal Technical College in Glasgow changed its title to the Royal College of Science and Technology. In 1964 it became the University of Strathclyde. He received British naturalization in 1947.
When Kenedi graduated in civil engineering during World War II, because of his Hungarian birth, he was classified as an “enemy alien”; therefore, employment opportunities were limited. Fortunately in 1941 he was offered a position as “temporary research assistant” in mechanical engineering at the RTC.
The work covered a variety of vibration problems (including that of the first all-welded ships' “singing propeller”). His first appointment was followed at the RTC by a series of staff posts of increasing seniority, including teaching of day and evening classes, and research, together with expanding industrial consulting, all on the civil, structural, and mechanical engineering areas.
By 1950 he had attained the appropriate academic and professional status as indicated, respectively, by the Ph.D. in structural engineering and the corporate memberships of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers and the Royal Aeronautical Society. The latter arose from a developing interest in application of the concepts of aircraft structural design to light civil engineering (prefabricated factory, school, and house building), naval architecture (ship superstructures), and nuclear engineering (reactor containment buildings). These interests, associated with the general topic of experimental stress analysis, formed the mainstream of his activities.
In the second period of Kenedi's professional life (1950 to 1962), he worked on mechanics of materials and structures and experimental stress analysis. He continued at the RTC as a senior lecturer with increasing freedom and encouragement to initiate and develop innovative activities in teaching, theoretical analysis, research, experiments, and industrial consultancies. During this period he had numerous invitations to lecture and to consult in foreign countries, primarily on thin-walled structures. He was appointed as a consultant to the Industrial Cold Rolled Sections Association. There he developed and designed codes for structures fabricated from such components. The concepts evolved and were extended to thin shells and applied to the design of nuclear reactor containment structures. He built up a section of the department of mechanical engineering, which was eventually established as a separate department of mechanics of materials.
In a third significant period (1962 to 1980), Kenedi collaborated with a distinguished plastic surgeon, Professor Tom Gibson, to develop a dynamometer to measure forces in the skin to close operation wounds or overcome deformities. Kenedi and Gibson
developed such ingenious and clinically valuable ideas that they became a full-time research group of the relatively newly reorganized University of Strathclyde, including the university that was formed from the Royal Technical College. Kenedi was encouraged to expand his bioengineering activity, mainly in mechanical and chemical engineering and, to a lesser extent, electrical engineering components. Others, particularly John Paul and John Hughes, also worked in bioengineering on theoretical and practical problems of the fitting of artificial limbs and orthotic devices. The bioengineering group for decades has housed a series of conferences on biomechanics of such devices.
I remember hearing Kenedi and Gibson in New York in 1963 at a joint lecture they presented at the local section of, I think, the Human Factors Society. They presented fascinating ideas on the experimental aspects of the skin dynamometer and the interrelationship of skin tension and or overcome deformities. Kenedi and Gibson developed such ingenious and clinically valuable ideas that they became a full-time research group of the relatively newly reorganized University of Strathclyde, including the university that was formed from the Royal Technical College. Kenedi was encouraged to expand his bioengineering activity, mainly in mechanical and chemical engineering and, to a lesser extent, electrical engineering components. Others, particularly John Paul and John Hughes, also workedeering concurrently with the exercise of equitable judgment as a member of the overall Directorate in evolving and implementing policy for the Polytechnic as a whole!” He found Hong Kong to be a “genuinely dynamic place” leaving his mark at the end of his stay with the establishment of a significant collaboration between the Polytechnic and the medical/surgical departments of the Hong Kong and Chinese Universities.
Upon returning to the United Kingdom, Kenedi was invited to join the principal's office as adviser on external relations. During the next six years his commitments included the establishment of the European Office as an expansion of the University's International Office and the Learning in Later Life (3L) program (leisure enhancement and training of new skills for the over-fifty age group) that resulted in the Senior Studies
Kenedi's professional life took him to many parts of the globe to present programs and to consult. He worked in Peru, the Netherlands, Germany, Scandinavia, Japan, Italy, Yugoslavia, South Africa, Belgium, France, Turkey, Israel, the United States, and Australia. These only begin the list of destinations in his almost forty-year careen Kenedi enjoyed and benefited from his relatively long periods in different cultures, languages, and areas of engineering. He worked intensively wherever he was and attained a stature, authorship, and awards to prove that he was not a dilettante. He was a member of numerous professional institutions and government committees.
Versatility in choosing theory, experiment, or appropriate combinations, skill in organizing groups to use novel attacks, and formation of self-perpetuating systems for long-term projects were characteristic of Kenedi's five activities.
His writings include authorship and coauthorship of forty-eight scientific and technical papers in the areas of theoretical and experimental stress analysis, structures constructed of cold-formed thin-walled sections and thin-walled shells. In addition, he authored or coauthored fifty-eight scientific and technical papers in the areas of tissue biomechanics as applied to reconstructive surgery, rehabilitation engineering, and bioengineering. Kenedi was editor or contributor to nine books. He was married to Jean Johnstone.