College of Engineering Seminars & Speakers

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Maxwell, Rankine, Airy and the Design of Modern Structures

Event Type
Mechanical Science and Engineering
4100 Sidney Lu Mechanical Engineering Building
Nov 28, 2023   4:00 pm  
Professor William Baker, Structural Engineering Consulting Partner, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Amy Rumsey
Originating Calendar
MechSE Seminars


Engineering mechanics is a great source for ideas that lead to the creation of new and innovative designs.  The presentation will review some of the seminal contributions of James Clerk Maxwell, William John Macquorn Rankine and George Biddell Airy to the theory of structural mechanics and how those theories can be applied to modern engineering design.

About the Speaker

William F. Baker is a structural engineering Consulting Partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill where he led the structural engineering practice for more than 20 years.  

Bill Baker is best known for the development of the “buttressed core” structural system for the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest manmade structure. In addition to his work on supertall buildings, his expertise also extends to long-span roof structures and specialty structures. He has also collaborated with numerous artists, including Janet Echelman, Jamie Carpenter, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, James Turrell, and Jaume Plensa. 

Bill Baker is the Honorary Professor of Structural Engineering Design at the University of Cambridge; he has received honorary doctorates from the University of Stuttgart, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, the Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Missouri, Columbia. He has received the Gold Medal from the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE), the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Lifetime Award for Design; the Gustav Magnel Gold Medal from the University of Ghent; the Fazlur Rahman Khan Medal from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat; the Torroja Medal from the International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures; and the Fritz Leonhardt Preis (Germany). 

He is a Fellow of both the ASCE and the IStructE, a member of the National Academy of Engineering (USA) and an International Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (United Kingdom).

Bill Baker is currently collaborating with faculty members from MIT, the University of Cambridge, University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University,  TU Munich, ETH/Zurich, and EPFL/Lausanne on a book for Cambridge University Press that is intended to make Maxwell’s work in structural mechanics accessible to the modern engineer.

Host: Professor Alexander Vakakis 

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