The Structural Engineer > Archive > Volume 86 (2008) > Issues > Issue 14 > The ascent of structural mechanics - Dr Iain A. MacLeod
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The ascent of structural mechanics - Dr Iain A. MacLeod

To understand the historical context of structural mechanics one needs to go back three centuries before the Institution of Structural Engineers was founded. In 1638 Galileo published an attempt to predict the strength of a cantilever beam. To illustrate his ideas1 he used the charming picture in Fig 1 of a cantilever beam set in to an overgrown and unstable looking wall. Unfortunately the integrity of his theory was of a similar standard to that of his wall. But this was the first lightening of the sky to herald the coming dawn of structural mechanics. The prediction of the strength of a beam became known as 'The Galilei Problem'. During the next 200 years the great applied mathematicians of Europe worked on the theory of bending and related topics. By the early 1800s many pieces of the structural mechanics jigsaw of ideas had been developed. There was a unique opportunity for someone to collect the prize for putting them together.