Geotechnical engineer John Lysmer, professor emeritus at UC Berkeley, died suddenly last week at age 67

By Robert Sanders, Public Affairs

BERKELEY-- John Lysmer, professor emeritus of geotechnical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, collapsed and died of a heart attack at his home in Berkeley on Jan. 25. He was 67 years old.

A native of Denmark, he came in 1965 to UC Berkeley where he joined forces with the late professor Harry Seed to develop the computational underpinnings of modern geotechnical earthquake engineering.

His pioneering work with a number of his PhD students brought him lasting international recognition through the computer programs he developed to predict the ground motion and acceleration at a site due to specific earthquake ground motions. These programs - SHAKE, QUAD-4, FLUSH and SASSI - take into account the soil and other geologic conditions at the site.

He took early retirement from the university in 1991 and continued a very active consulting and teaching life.

"Those of us who knew him remember his joy of life," said Nicholas Sitar, professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Berkeley. "He was a great storyteller and, in particular, his lectures based on his stamp collection will be remembered by all who were fortunate to enjoy them. His death is a tragic loss of a great and valued colleague and friend."

Among his many honors were the Thomas A. Middlebrooks Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1967 and the Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize in 1976, also from the ASCE.

Lysmer was born August 18, 1931, in Copenhagen, where he was raised. He graduated from the Technical University of Denmark with a Master of Science in soil mechanics in 1954. From 1955 to 1961 he worked for Ove Arup & Partners, Consulting Engineers, as the engineer in charge of the African Branch in Lagos, Nigeria, where he was responsible for the construction of hundreds of miles of roads and many bridges.

He came to the United States in 1961. After a year as an instructor at the University of Florida, Gainesville, he started work on his PhD at the University of Michigan under the tutelage of Professor Richart. He completed his dissertation on the vertical motion of rigid footings in 1965 and then joined the UC Berkeley faculty.

Lysmer is survived by his third wife, Mary Smith Flint, of Berkeley; and by three daughters from his first marriage, Susanne Rapella of Albany, Annette Lysmer of Alameda and Marianne Fogle of Walnut Creek.

A memorial service has been scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 6, at 1 p.m. at Oakland First Baptist Church, corner of Telegraph Ave. and 22nd St.

In lieu of flowers, a John Lysmer Fellowship Fund is being established in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UC Berkeley. Contributions in Lysmer's name should be sent to the department, Berkeley, CA 94720-1710. Proceeds will be used to fund graduate students in geotechnical engineering.

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