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Profiles: Engineers of the Past

Engineers of Asian-Pacific heritage have had a lasting impact within the world of civil engineering not only through their professional achievements but also through a strong dedication to passing on their knowledge to future engineers.

The legacy of each of these engineers below has helped pave the way for future generations of engineers to have opportunities for success.  

Fu Hua Chen

 (1912 - 1999)

  • Born in Fu Zhou, Fu Jain Province, China
  • Known as the foremost authority on expansive soils in the world
  • Credited with the completion of China's Burma Road during WWII
  • In 1932 enrolled in the University of Michigan
  • Earned his BS in civil engineering from the University of Michigan
  • Earned a maters from the University of Illinois
  • Returned to China in the 1930's, working on the Burma Road Project for which he received a national award
  • After WWII moved to Hong Kong, where he was employed at the Public Works Department
  • 1957 immigrated to the United States and began working with Woodward-Clyde-Sherard geotechnical engineers in Colorado
  • 1961 formed Chen and Associates, a private consulting firm which he developed over the next 27 years
  • Chen and Associates developed geotechnical design criteria for all major college campuses in Colorado
  • Chen and Associates conducted thousands of soils investications in the Rocky Mountains, and as a result many of Denver's high-rise foundations have been built to Chen's design criteria
  • Active in porfessional societies: ASCE, NSPE, ACEC, and CEC
  • Wrte for a number of technical and leadership publications, and authored several books
  • Author of Foundations and Expansive Soils, a book on seen as the fundamental book on practical design techniques for expansive soils
  • Co-authored Engineering Colorado with Richard Weingardt
  • Wrote a restrospective of his career, Between East and West
  • Received an honorary doctorate of science from Colorado State University 
  • Profiled in ASCE's 2005 book, Engineering Legends: Great American Civil Engineers

Tung-Yen (T.Y.) Lin

(1912 - 2003)

  • Lin, TYEarned a master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. 
  • Earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Jiaotung University in China
  • Received four honorary doctorate degrees from universities in the U.S. and Asia.
  • An authority on long-span construction
  • Led research and development of prestressed concrete, which is widely used today and enables engineers to create structures from earthquake-resistant highway overpasses to many of the world’s most beloved buildings and bridges
  • Helped to integrate basic theories of prestressed and reinforced concrete, and developed the load balancing method for the design of frames, slabs and thin shells of prestressed concrete.
  • Began his career in the 1930s as a design and bridge engineer in China for the famous Cheng-Yu Railway and Yunnan Burma Highway, and the Kung-Sing Engineering Company and Taiwan Sugar Company Railroads
  • Joined the University of California at Berkeley faculty in 1946 and taught until 1976
  • In 1954, he established T.Y. Lin International, a consulting engineering practice that grew to a staff of more than 500 in 10 offices when he retired in 1992.
  • Some best-known projects include: the San Francisco Moscone Convention Center, the Shah Alum 85,000-seat covered stadium in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and the Pacific Park Plaza 30-story ductile concrete condominium that survived the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake without a crack
  • Created several new forms of arch and cable bridges in concrete and steel
  • His spans cross major rivers in the U.S., South America and Asia
  • Well-known for his prize-winning proposals to bridge the Gibraltar and Bering Straits
  • Submitted a proposal for moving China from totalitarianism to democracy in stages to President Jiang Ze Min in 1991
  • Accepted more than 100 awards during his career
  • A recipient of the National Medal of Science, America’s highest honor for technical achievement
  • Elected to the National Academy of Engineering
  • Honorary Member of ASCE
  • Honorary Member of the American Concrete Institute
  • Received ASCE's 2000 Outstanding Projects and Leaders (OPAL) Award for lifetime achievement in design. 

James T.P. Yao

(1932 - 2009) 

  • Yao, JamesProfessor emeritus at Texas A&M University
  • Died on December 23 at the age of 77
  • Born in Shanghai, China
  • Obtained a doctorate in civil engineering in 1961
  • Earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Professor of civil engineering at at Texas A&M University from 1988 to 2002
  • Was the Carolyn S. and Tommie E. Lohman Professor of Engineering Education from 1996 until his retirement
  • Headed the civil engineering department at Texas A&M from 1988 to 1993
  • Professor of civil engineering at Purdue University from 1971 to 1988
  • Professor of civil engineering at the University of New Mexico from 1964 to 1971
  • Made significant contributions in the areas of earthquake engineering, structural safety and reliability, structural control, civil infrastructure management, and engineering education
  • Received multiple ASCE awards, including: the State-of-the-Art of Civil Engineering Award (1973, 1983), the Alfred M. Freudenthal Medal (1990), the Richard R. Torrens Award (1992), the President’s Medal (1995), and the Norman Medal (1999)
  • In 2000, received the best-paper award from the Society’s Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice.