Academy of Distinguished Alumni

Ray Clough

Ray W. Clough Sc.D., N.A.E.

Inducted to the Academy of Distinguished Alumni on

Ray W. Clough received his received his B.S. (1942) degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Washington and his ScD. (1949) from MIT. Prof. Clough was a member of the Berkeley CEE faculty from 1949 to 1987, retiring as the Byron L. and Elvira E. Nishkian Professor of Structural Engineering. He served as a Director of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) from 1973 to 1977. He also served for several years on the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Earthquake Engineering. Prof. Clough died on October 8th, 2016 at the age of 96.

Prof. Clough is renowned for pioneering the field of structural earthquake engineering, and his most important research contribution as a member of the Berkeley faculty was as co-developer of the “Finite Element Method,” which revolutionized the field of structural analysis and design of buildings and other structures such as dams, as well as finding application in many other disciplines that now use this method of analysis. He was an early visionary of the capability of using powerful computers to conduct complex structural analyses; analyses that would have been impossible only a few years before. In the 1960s, he developed a series of publications that contained pioneering methods for computer earthquake analyses of tall buildings. These methods were the forerunners of later commercial computer programs, such as SAP 2000, now standard in engineering practice. He co-authored the definitive text, still widely used today, Dynamics of Structures, with Joseph Penzien, in 1975. 

Prof. Clough was recognized with many awards and honors including election to the National Academy of Engineering in 1968 and the National Academy of Sciences in 1979, one of only a very few individuals ever elected to both national academies. Among his many other awards, he received the George W. Housner Medal from EERI (1996) and the Prince Philip Medal from the Royal Academy of Engineering in London. In 1994, President Clinton presented Prof. Clough with the National Medal of Science for his “outstanding contributions in the fields of finite element analysis, structural dynamics, and earthquake engineering which had extraordinary influence in the development of modern engineering.” In 2006, Prof. Clough was awarded the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Civil Engineering “for revolutionizing engineering and scientific computation and engineering design methods through his formulation and development of the finite element method, and for his innovative leadership in applying the method to the field of earthquake engineering with special emphasis on the seismic performance of dams.” In 2008, at the 14th World Conference on Earthquake Engineering in Beijing, China, Prof. Clough was recognized as one of the “legends of earthquake engineering.”