Obituaries: T.Y. Lin, James Cason
20 November 2003
Tung-Yen (T.Y.) Lin, a professor emeritus in civil engineering and a visionary whose pioneering work in prestressed concrete had a profound influence on modern structural design, has died. He was 91.
T.Y. Lin died Nov. 15 at his El Cerrito home after a fall resulting from a mild heart attack. He had met with former students the week before his death.
Considered one of the greatest structural engineers of his time, Lin earned a reputation for combining elegance and strength in his designs. His work is found worldwide, from San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center to the Kuan Du Bridge in Taiwan to the roof of the National Racetrack in Caracas, Venezuela.
Born in Fuzhou, China, in 1912, Lin was raised in Beijing, where his father moved the family when he joined China’s Supreme Court. At 14, Lin passed college entrance exams, earning the top score in math in Jiaotong University’s engineering college, which he entered in 1926. After earning his B.S. in civil engineering at 19, he began graduate studies at UC Berkeley.
Lin returned to China — after receiving his master’s degree in 1933 — to work with the Ministry of Railways, where he oversaw the survey, design, and construction of more than 1,000 bridges throughout China’s mountainous regions.
In 1941, Lin married Margaret Kao, whose father was also a Su-preme Court justice in China. Five years later, he joined Berkeley’s faculty. It was here that Lin began his groundbreaking research in prestressed concrete, which combines the tensile strength of steel wires with the compressive strength of concrete. His work “changed the history of building, making possible today’s high-rises and graceful long-span structures,” said Alex Scordelis, professor emeritus of structural engineering.
In the midst of the Cold War, Lin developed one of his boldest ideas: connecting Alaska to Siberia with a 50-mile bridge across the Bering Strait. He called the proposed structure the “Intercon-tinental Peace Bridge,” which he believed could foster better relations between the United States and Russia and show that human energy “can be devoted to constructive ... measures to the benefit of all mankind.”
In 1986, when President Ronald Reagan presented Lin with the National Medal of Science, Lin handed the president plans for the span, which made news around the world. The proposed bridge, which drew both raves and criticism, still remains on paper.
Lin proposed other daring projects, such as a nine-mile suspension bridge connecting Spain and Morocco across the Strait of Gibral-tar. In the Bay Area, he influenced the design of the San Mateo Bridge and the I-80 bridge in Berkeley for pedestrians and bicyclists.
In 1954, Lin founded an engineering firm, and he retired from Berkeley in 1976 to lead the company full-time.
He took particular pride in having influencing the redevelopment of Pudong, an island off the coast of Shanghai.
In 1988, Lin donated the El Cerrito home he designed and lived in to UC Berkeley to endow the T.Y. and Margaret Lin Chair in Engineering and a dean’s discretionary fund at the College of Engineering. It is the only residential home made of prestressed concrete. As Lin and his wife were avid ballroom dancers, the home also includes a 1,000-square-foot dance floor.
Lin is survived by his wife of 62 years, Margaret, of El Cerrito; his son, Paul Lin, of Palo Alto; his daughter, Verna Lin-Yee, of Oakland; his sisters, Nancy Li of Massachusetts, Amy Shen of Virginia, Sylvia Chen of New York, and Anna Hu of San Jose; his brothers, Tung-Qi Lin of Massachusetts and Tung-Kuan Lin of Torrance; and five grandchildren.
A private service will be held Thursday, Nov. 20. A public memorial on campus is being planned. Donations may be made to the Berkeley Engineering Fund for the T.Y. Lin Fellowship, c/o College of Engineering, 208 McLaughlin Hall, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-1722.
James Cason, an emeritus professor of chemistry, died Nov. 3 at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley after a short illness. He was 91.
For almost four decades, Cason taught organic chemistry, serving as dean of the college from 1955 to 1956. He authored four college textbooks on organic chemistry and published more than 100 articles in major scientific journals.
Cason was born in 1912, in Murfreesboro, Tenn. He earned an BA from Vanderbilt University in 1934 and went on to receive an master’s degree in organic chemistry from Berkeley in 1935 and a Ph.D. in the same discipline from Yale in 1938.
Following a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard, he worked with the National Defense Research Committee under the direction of Louis Fieser during World War II. Cason taught at DePauw University from 1940 to 1941 and at Vanderbilt from 1941 to 1945 before joining the faculty at Berkeley later in 1945.
Cason retired in 1983. During the past 20 years, he and his wife, Rebecca, split their time between their home in the Berkeley hills and their old-growth redwood property, which they named “Camelot,” near Garberville. For a number of years the Casons operated a profitable 75-acre almond orchard in California’s Central Valley.
Cason is survived by his wife of 68 years, Rebecca Marsden Cason; sons Roger of Nathrop, Colo., and Mardy of Boston, Mass.; four grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.
A memorial service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 7, in the Heyns Room of the Faculty Club.
— Jane Scheiber