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Donald E. Hudson, Earthquake Engineering Pioneer, Dies at 83

by James Lytle

DONALD E. HUDSON, a USC and Caltech expert in mechanical and earthquake engineering, died of heart failure Saturday, April 24, in a Pasadena hospital. He was 83 and a longtime resident of Pasadena.

A pioneer in the field of earthquake engineering, Hudson developed or co-developed a number of instruments used in the study and analysis of seismic motions for designing quake-resistant buildings, bridges and dams.

His major programs of investigation included dynamic measurements in the field of vibrations and experimental stress analysis, general analysis in structural dynamics and vibrations, and analytical and experimental methods in earthquake engineering and engineering seismology.

He co-authored two important textbooks with George Housner, a longtime colleague at Caltech – Applied Mechanics-Statics and Applied Mechanics-Dynamics. His articles have appeared in the Journal of Applied Mechanics, the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, the Journal of Engineering Mechanics and other publications.

“Don Hudson was a devoted scholar and a friend and mentor to his students and the young researchers who worked with him,” said Mihran Agbabian, emeritus professor and former chairman of civil and environmental engineering at the USC School of Engineering. “His quiet leadership invited immediate respect. The people of California, as well as people in many parts of the world where there is a seismic hazard, have been beneficiaries of his significant contributions to earthquake-safe design and construction.”

In 1989, the American Society of Civil Engineers awarded its Nathan M. Newmark Medal to Hudson for his contributions to structural mechanics and measurement analysis and his interpretation of the response of structures to dynamic forces and motions.

From 1981 to 1985, Hudson chaired the department of civil engineering in the USC School of Engineering, where he also held the Fred Champion Professorship in Civil Engineering. He retired from USC with emeritus status in 1985.

He was president of the International Association for Earthquake Engineering from 1980 to 1984.

FOR NEARLY FOUR DECADES, Hudson taught at the California Institute of Technology, serving as assistant professor of mechanical engineering (1943-49), associate professor of mechanical engineering (1949-55), professor of mechanical engineering (1955-63), and professor of mechanical engineering and applied mechanics (1963-81). He retired from Caltech with emeritus status in 1981.

During World War II, Hudson worked on projects involving rocketry and underwater ordnance design through the U.S. Navy’s Office of Research and Inventions.

He conducted research in geophysical engineering for the General Petroleum Corp. from 1938 to 1941 and in vibration engineering for the Douglas Aircraft Co. in 1942.

Born Feb. 25, 1916, in Alma, Mich., Hudson graduated from Pasadena High School and earned his bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Caltech in 1938, 1939 and 1942, respectively.

Hudson was elected to membership in the National Academy of Engineering in 1973. He was a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the ASCE, the American Society for Engineering Education and the American Geophysical Union.

Survivors include his wife, Phyllis Hudson; two stepsons; and one stepgrandson.

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