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In Memoriam - Prof. Nenad Bićanić

OBITUARY - Professor Nenad Bićanić (1945-2016) 

Dip. Ing (Zagreb), PhD (Swansea), FICE, FIACM

It is with great sadness that I inform you that Nenad Bićanić passed away on Saturday 8th October 2016 at his Croatian home on the island of Losinj.

After graduating from Zagreb University Nenad worked as a Structural Engineer in both Croatia and the Netherlands. It was during this time that he attended early courses on the Finite Element Method at Delft, that without doubt influenced the direction of his future career. In 1972 he returned to his Alma Mater as a member of academic staff, remaining there until 1985. During this time, he had two formative sabbaticals. The first took him and his family to Swansea, where he undertook his PhD under the supervision of Professor Olgierd Zienkiewicz and Professor Ernest Hinton. The second was a visiting professorship at Boulder, Colorado. Nenad fully embraced these experiences and many life-long friendships were made.

Nenad returned to Swansea as a lecturer in 1985, quickly being promoted to Senior Lecturer and then Reader. In 1994, in recognition of his national and international reputation in computational mechanics, he was offered the Regius Chair of Civil Engineering at the University of Glasgow. As the 9th incumbent of this prestigious post, he was acutely aware and proud of the Chair’s heritage. The Chair was established by Queen Victoria in 1840, the very first Chair of Engineering in the United Kingdom that had been held by a number of famous engineers, including William Rankine and James Thomson (brother of Lord Kelvin). Nenad was also Head of Department for four years at Glasgow, bringing leadership and vision in a style that was characterised by his thoughtfulness and passion for the subject.

His time at both Swansea and Glasgow will be remembered with great fondness by both staff and students. He was an inspirational teacher and mentor, helping to shape the career paths of numerous young researchers. He will be remembered as much for his kindness as for his intellect. He was notoriously disorganised but that was also his charm! He was a leading light in the creation and continued success of the UK Association of Computational Mechanics, moulding the annual conference to support young researchers. Nenad had a passion for sport and demonstrated a surprisingly competitive side. He organised annual sports days at both Swansea and Glasgow, pitting staff against students in friendly competition. 

Nenad retired from Glasgow in 2010 and he and his wife Jasna moved to Oxford, dividing their time between Oxford and their other home on the island of Losinj in Croatia. However, that was not the end of his academic career, taking up a part-time position at Rijeka University, where he continued to undertake both research and teaching. 

Nenad undertook research and published significantly in the field of computational mechanics, including subjects such as concrete mechanics, fracture, dynamics, computational plasticity, discrete element method, discontinuous deformation analysis, multi-scale mechanics and multi-physics modelling. He co-edited the well-known EURO-C conference series that started in Split in 1984 and was followed by highly successful conferences in 1990, 1994, 1998, 2003, 2006, 2010 and 2014. These conferences reflected Nenad’s character, always including a ski competition and evenings of informal scientific discussion. The upcoming 2018 conference will be in his memory.

Nenad was a great friend, colleague and mentor to many in the computational mechanics community and his death will be felt deeply. Our thoughts go to his wife Jasna and his children Tihana and Nick.

Chris Pearce, University of Glasgow