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The paper briefly traces the development of the finite element method and considers its relevance to the work of the structural engineer. It draws attention to the role of the analyst and the necessity to pay due attention to the modelling activity. Recent developments aimed at defining accuracy by the use of adaptive elements are noted, as well as the role of NAFEMS in ensuring that quality assurance is firmly in place. The computer technology requirements are defined and examples given with respect to large-scale analytical work and the use of FEM in the prediction of the failure behaviour of reinforced concrete structures. D. Carlton
Design by natural selection? Professor W. M. Jenkins, introducing his paper ‘Structural optimisation with the genetic algorithm’ (The Structural Engineer, I7 December 1991), explained the basis of his optimisation procedure as follows. ‘Stochastic processes are used to generate an initial population of individual designs, and the process then applies principles of natural selection/survival of the fittest to find improved designs.’ Verulam