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'Father' of Wind Engineering, Jack E. Cermak, Is Dead

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CPP Inc.
The researcher-practitioner, 89, whose innovative wind tunnel at Colorado State University attracted many visitors such as artist Andy Warhol (right) in 1971, pioneered wind-resistant design techniques that are standard today.
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Engineer Jack E. Cermak, who was dubbed the "father of wind engineering," and was a pioneer in the study and testing of the impact of extreme wind forces on engineered structures, died in his sleep on Aug. 21 in Fort Collins, Colo., says his company. He was 89.

In a six-decade career, Cermak's work as an educator, practitioner and researcher laid the foundation for new wind-resistant design.

"Because of his early contributions to the field, including defining the tools and methods on which modern wind engineering is founded, Dr. Cermak had an extremely distinguished career," says an obituary issued by CPP Inc., a wind engineering firm that he co-founded in 1981 and of which he was president emeritus at his death.

In 1959, Cermak founded the Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, where he launched physical modeling of wind-structure interactions in boundary-layer wind tunnels. The technique is now considered essential in wind-resistant design for large structures, long-span bridges and high-rises, says Ahsan Kareem, a Ph.D. student of Cermak's and himself a noted University of Notre Dame researcher.

According to Bob Fallbeck, a CPP spokesman, the wind tunnel hosted thousands of visitors, including artist Andy Warhol in 1971, who was then a guest instructor at the university.

Warhol "heard about Jack's work and the wind tunnel that Jack had developed," says Fallbeck. "Being a man who appreciated innovation and invention," he adds, the artist sought out Cermak to talk about his work.


Jack E. Cermak

The firm says Cermak's work with engineers Alan Davenport and Leslie Robertson on the World Trade Center Towers in New York City in 1964 "brought the field of wind engineering and its relevance to building design to the international spotlight."

Cermak was principal investigator for wind-tunnel tests on more than 500 building and other projects. ENR cited the CSU lab in 1999 as one of the 125 most important industry innovations in the last 125 years.

Cermak "would define overall broad goals of a project and then give you complete freedom as to how to achieve them," says Kareem.

Cermak was the first president in 1976 of the Wind Engineering Research Council (now the American Association for Wind Engineering) and was elected into the National Academy of Engineering in 1973. He also was the namesake for an American Society of Civil Engineers annual award created in 2001 for contributions to wind engineering research.

Kareem was the first recipient.

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