Professor Nicholas Snowden Trahair

December 1998 marked the retirement of one of the world’s foremost structural engineers, Professor Nicholas S. Trahair, who was Challis Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Sydney. Professor Trahair joined the Department of Civil Engineering at Sydney in 1960, after graduating with a Bachelor of Science in 1954 and a Bachelor of Engineering with First Class Honours in 1956, and a Master of Engineering Science in 1959. Prior to joining the academic staff at Sydney, he spent three years with the Department of Works in Canberra. He gained a PhD in 1968, and a Doctorate in Engineering in 1994, both for his work on flexural-torsional buckling. Over a period of 38 years at Sydney, Nick held the positions of Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Associate Professor, Challis Professor, Head of Department, Director of the Postgraduate Civil Engineering Foundation and was the Founding Chairman of the Centre for Advanced Structural Engineering. He held visiting appointments at Washington University, The University of Sheffield, The Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science, The University of Alberta and Imperial College of Science and Technology, as well as delivering lectures in the USA, England, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, France, New Zealand, Scotland, Canada, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, India, South Africa and Hong Kong.

Professor Trahair’s contributions to research, design and teaching in steel structures are enormous, and at the forefront of this area worldwide. He was a member of the Steel Structures Committee of Standards Australia which produced the steel design codes AS-CA1 1968, AS 1250 1972, 1975, 1981, and was a major contributor to and co-chairman of the committee which developed the Limit States Steel Structures Standard AS 4100 1990, which is regarded internationally as one of the world’s leading steel design standards. He has been heavily involved in numerous high-level consultancies, and recently in the development of the LIMSTEEL computer software design package which is almost universally used throughout Australia and New Zealand for the routine design of steel structures. His books on The Behaviour and Design of Steel Structures (now in its third edition), and Flexural–Torsional Buckling of Structures, are of world renown.

It is Nick’s research into the lateral buckling of steel structures that has gained him international standing in structural stability, with his contributions in this area being considered by many as unrivalled. His publica-tions in the discipline, both in leading international journals and symposia, are in the hundreds. This work earned Nick numerous awards, the most recent of which is the ASCE’s Shortridge Hardesty Award in 1998 for “his research on the lateral–torsional stability of beams and active participation in the development of several standards that are of significant value to the profession”. In 1995, an international conference was held in Sydney to honour his achievements in structural stability and in the design of steel structures, with representatives from most major economies attending. Amongst these were the chairmen of the British, German, Canadian and New Zealand steel structures committees, and members of national steel structures committees from the USA, Italy, Singapore, Japan and South Africa.

Those who know Nick would all attest, not only to his outstanding achievements in structural engineering, but to his humility, dedication to his family and to his friendship and mentoring of colleagues and students. Those with whom he has worked, including the writers of this article, owe him much. The well-known saying “a gentleman and a scholar” is a most apt description of Nick. We all wish him well in his retirement, and envy the many leisurely activities he is now pursuing, but hope that he will maintain contact with his former department and with the structural engineering fraternity.

Professor Mark A. Bradford
School of Civil and Environmental Engineering
The University of New South Wales

Professor Gregory J. Hancock
Department of Civil Engineering
The University of Sydney


Taken from Advances in Structural Engineering Vol. 3 No. 1 2000