The Royal Academy of Engineering is to confer its solid gold Prince Philip Medal to Professor Olek Zienkiewicz CBE FREng FRS, widely regarded as the “Father of the Finite Element Method”, for outstanding contributions spanning the wide field of mechanics and engineering.

The Prince Philip Medal, instigated in 1989, is awarded periodically to an engineer of any nationality "who has made an exceptional contribution to engineering as a whole through practice, management or education."

Olek Zienkiewicz is Emeritus Professor and former Director of the Institute for Numerical Methods in Engineering at the University of Wales, Swansea. He holds the UNESCO Chair of Numerical Methods in Engineering at the Technical University of Catalunya in Barcelona and is a past holder of the Joe C Walter Chair of Engineering at the University of Texas, Austin.

Born in Surrey in 1921, he attended primary and secondary schools in Poland and obtained his BSc, PhD and DSc at Imperial College. Since his first paper in 1947 dealing with numerical approximation to the stress analysis of dams, he has published nearly 600 papers and written or edited more than 25 books. He was one of the early pioneers of the Finite Element Method and was the first to realise its potential for the solution to problems outside the area of solid mechanics. His own contribution to the Method’s development made it the widely applicable tool of computational mechanics and engineering that it is today. His books on the Finite Element Method were the first to present the subject and to this day remain the standard reference texts.

In his research career, he has personally supervised over 70 PhD students, many of whom today hold leading positions in academia and industry. He also founded the first journal dealing with computational mechanics in 1968 (International Journal of Numerical Methods in Engineering) which is still the major journal for the field of Numerical Computations. He has served as a member of Council of the Institution of Civil Engineers and was the Chairman of the Analysis and Design Committee of the International Congress for Large Dams.

Professor Zienkiewicz has received honorary degrees from Ireland, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, China, Poland, Scotland, Wales, France, England, Italy, Portugal, Hong Kong, Hungary and the United States. He has been the recipient of many awards, including the title of Commander of the British Empire, the prestigious Royal Medal of the Royal Society from HM Queen Elizabeth II, the Carl Friedrich Gauss Medal of the West German Academy of Science, the Nathan Newmark Medal of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Newton-Gauss Medal of the International Association for Computational Mechanics, the Gold Medal of the Institution for Mathematics and its Applications, a Gold Medal from the Institution of Structural Engineers and the Timoshenko Medal of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He was elected to the Royal Society and The Royal Academy of Engineering in 1979 and is a Foreign Member of the United States National Academy of Engineering, the Polish Academy of Science, the Italian National Academy of Sciences and the Chinese National Academy of Sciences.

Professor Zienkiewicz will receive the Prince Philip Medal from HRH Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace on 16 June 2006.

Notes for editors

  1. The Prince Philip Medal, instigated in 1989, is awarded periodically to an engineer of any nationality "who has made an exceptional contribution to engineering as a whole through practice, management or education." The list of previous winners is short but very eminent and includes:

    Professor James Dooge FREng (2005), retired Chair in Civil Engineering, University College Dublin, one of the most eminent engineers to have come out of Ireland for his contribution to professional practice in hydraulic engineering and hydro-electric design, and who led many advances in the application of linear systems theory to hydrology.
    Professor William Bonfield CBE, FREng, FRSA, (2004) Professor of Medical materials at the University of Cambridge, for his outstanding achievements in developing and taking right through to commercialisation and clinical use the world leading ’artificial bone’ material.
    Professor David Rhodes (2003), Executive Chairman of Filtronic plc, in recognition for his outstanding research expertise in communications technology which he developed into a highly successful world-wide company.
    Philip Ruffles CBE RDI FREng FRS (2001) for his key role behind Rolls-Royce’s award-winning Trent family of engines, which have captured over half the global market; the Academy’s President Sir Alec Broers FREng FRS (now Lord Broers), Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, (2000) both for pioneering miniature electronic circuits on silicon chips and for building the university’s links with industry.
    Sir John Browne FREng, Chief Executive of BP Amoco plc, in 1999 for his engineering and managerial achievements in creating Britain’s biggest company.
  2. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship - comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers - provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.

For more information please contact

Amy Abbott, Manager, Events and Awards, The Royal Academy of Engineering