Johns Hopkins Gazette: October 24, 1994

Scanlan Slows Down Long Enough to Celebrate His 80th Birthday
By Ken Keatley

Mandatory retirement at age 70 forced Robert Scanlan to leave
Princeton University, so he accepted a part-time, temporary
faculty position in Hopkins' Department of Civil Engineering.
    Ten years later, Dr. Scanlan and his wife of 55 years, Beth,
continue to commute home to Princeton every few weekends. But
from all appearances, the 80-year-old "Father of Aeroelasticity"
has the Hopkins job to stay.
    "I hadn't expected it to last this long," Dr. Scanlan said
with a grin. "But people have been so gracious here, and we've
had some good accomplishments. Working is as nice a thing as I
can imagine doing."
    Dr. Scanlan has long been one of the world's most acclaimed
experts on the wind engineering of bridges and other structures.
He is a leading authority on aeroelasticity, the study of the
effects of air flow in causing a structure to move.
    Still, it is with some uneasiness that Dr. Scanlan finds
himself the center of attention, which he will be Oct. 28 and 29
when more than 100 of his colleagues, friends and family members
gather at Homewood for an 80th birthday symposium honoring him
and his accomplishments. 
    "Years ago, in France, my thesis adviser was similarly
honored. He said, 'It's what happens when you grow older,'" Dr.
Scanlan said. "And I think there is something of that in this. I
would shy away from such an event, but since it's launched, I'm
not fighting it."
    "Happy Birthday Bob: Your Tradition Continues" is the theme
of the weekend event, which was suggested by several of Dr.
Scanlan's former students and coordinated by his Civil
Engineering colleague Nick Jones. Numerous papers on aspects of
engineering mechanics, as well as testaments to the work of Dr.
Scanlan, will be presented.
    "Bob is at the top of his field. You can rarely pick up a
published paper that doesn't reference his work in some way," Dr.
Jones said. "And I don't consider this symposium to be capping
his career. We all hope he'll be around for a long time to come."
    Dr. Scanlan, who holds doctorates in mathematics and physics
from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and in mechanics
from the Sorbonne in Paris, has spent some 54 years working in
aeronautics, structural mechanics and acoustics in both
industrial and academic settings.
    He has written extensively on aerodynamics; former student
Emil Simiu, a Hopkins research professor and fellow at the
National Institute of Standards and Technology, with whom he
co-authored Wind Effects on Structures, will be a moderator and
speaker at the Hopkins symposium.
    In recent years, Dr. Scanlan has consulted on a number of
bridge projects, including the aerodynamic design of Kap Shui
Mun, a cable-stayed bridge under construction near the new Hong
Kong airport; and a proposed "super-bridge" over the Strait of
    He has on two occasions led a review of the wind resistance
of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and has also
recommended modifications to the pavement and deck of the William
Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge across the Chesapeake Bay.
    "He's not somebody who retires," said Beth Scanlan, a former
nurse who during the Hopkins years has served as her husband's
office assistant. "Imagine him at Club Med. He'd be so turned
off. His idea of fun is work."
    The Scanlans, who have four children and seven
grandchildren, share a love of music. For years they played
together in community orchestras; she on the double bass, he on
(naturally) a wind instrument--the flute.
    "We did have a nice career in music," Dr. Scanlan said. "But
with so much happening in engineering, I don't have the time to
practice anymore." 

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