Encyclopedia of Continuum Mechanics

Living Edition
| Editors: Holm Altenbach, Andreas Öchsner

Westergaard, Harold Malcolm

  • Holm AltenbachEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-53605-6_339-1

Harold (born as Harald) Malcolm Westergaard (October 9, 1888, in Copenhagen, Denmark; †June 22, 1950, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA) was a civil engineer working in theory of elasticity, plasticity, and fracture mechanics

Open image in new window Harold Malcolm Westergaard (courtesy by University of Illinois Archive)


Westergaard studied civil engineering at the Polytechnic in Copenhagen. He graduated in 1911. One of his academic teachers was Asger Skovgaard Ostenfeld who established the strain method in statics allowing the analysis of frameworks.

Professional Carrier

After graduation he was employed as a civil engineer in Copenhagen, Hamburg, and London. He obtained during this time his knowledge on reinforced concrete structures. After that he entered the University of Göttingen working together with Ludwig Prandtl. He submitted his written dissertation at Königlich Bayerische Technische Hochschule München in 1915 (supervisor August Föppl), but with respect to the World War I (Westergaard moved to the USA), he could pass the oral exam only in 1921. The official graduation certificate he got in 1925 after publication of his thesis.

In the USA he obtained his PhD degree in 1916 at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (thesis title: Tests and Analysis Relating to the Strength and Elasticity of Concrete and Reinforced Concrete Under Bi-axial Stress). After that, in this university he was appointed as a lecturer, from 1921 as an assistant professor, from 1924 as an associate professor, and from 1927 as a professor. In 1936 he was appointed Gordon McKay professor for engineering mechanics at Harvard University. Here he was the dean of the graduate school of engineering from 1937 up to 1946.

Scientific Achievements

His main focus was on concrete structures. In 1930 he published a paper on the history of structural mechanics (Westergaard, 1930). Later his research was directed to fracture mechanics establishing a special solution method based on the Kolosov-Muskhelishvili formulas (Westergaard, 1939).

He was a consultant of the US American Bureau of Reclamation during the Hoover Dam construction. Among his PhD students was Raymond Mindlin.


In 1921 Westergaard published together with W. A. Slater on reinforced concrete plates (Westergaard and Slater, 1921) and was awarded the Wason Medal of the American Concrete Institute. In 1937 Westergaard was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; from 1942 he was a member of the American Philosophical Society.



  1. Westergaard HM (1930) One hundred years of advance in structural mechanics. Trans ASCE 94:226–246Google Scholar
  2. Westergaard HM (1939) Bearing pressures and cracks. J Appl Mech 6:A49–A53Google Scholar
  3. Westergaard HM, Slater WA (1921) Moments and stresses in slabs. Proc Am Concrete Inst 17:415–538Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fakultät für Maschinenbau, Institut für MechanikOtto-von-Guericke-Universität MagdeburgMagdeburgGermany

Section editors and affiliations

  • Holm Altenbach
    • 1
  1. 1.Fakultät für Maschinenbau, Institut für MechanikOtto-von-Guericke-Universität MagdeburgMagdeburgGermany