Distinguished Alumni Awards

George Rankin Irwin

George Rankin Irwin
To George Rankin Irwin, applied physicist and technical administrator, for his originality and leadership in the development of the field of fracture mechanics and for his distinguished service to the nation.

Boeing University Professor, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

PhD, Physics, 1937

Dr. Irwin assumed leadership of a small mechanics division group at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., in 1937. By the time the United States entered World War II, he had devised a straightforward but very exacting technique for measuring the penetration force and its time derivative for a bullet entering a target. In July 1946, he took over personal leadership of an investigation of brittle fracture that had been underway for some five years. He reoriented the program in accordance with a new approach that emphasized the significance of time and size effects.

Dr. Irwin gave the title, Fracture Mechanics, to this field of study and has devoted his energies to it ever since. The validity and usefulness of his work has been demonstrated in such diverse applications as development of aircraft glazing, the rotor burst problem of the electrical manufacturing industry, and the Polaris engine case development.

Current as of 1969.