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"The 90th Birthday of Academician Yurii Nikolaevich Rabotnov," Mech. Solids. 39 (1), 171-172 (2004)
Year 2004 Volume 39 Number 1 Pages 171-172
Title The 90th Birthday of Academician Yurii Nikolaevich Rabotnov
Author(s)
Abstract Yurii Nikolaevich Rabotnov (1914-1985) is an outstanding scientist of the 20th century in the field of mechanics of solids. He obtained fundamental results in virtually all areas of the science of strength-the theory of stability, mechanics of fracture, hereditary theory of creep, mechanics of composite materials, and the theory of plasticity. His last book-the university textbook Mechanics of Solids-has become an encyclopedia for undergraduate and graduate students, engineers, and scientists. Although this book has run into several editions, it is difficult to find it on the shelves in bookstores, but it stands on the bookshelf of almost every teacher of the strength of materials. High level general and mathematical culture, extremely wide erudition, and reasonable combination of theoretical rigor with thorough experiment permitted him even during his life-time to rank with such recognized classics as S. P. Timoshenko, A. N. Krylov, N. I. Muskhelishvili, and V. V. Novozhilov. The unflagging interest in his ideas and books confirms this. The hereditary theory of plasticity is continuing to be developed. The version of the engineering theory of shells proposed by Rabotnov is widely utilized. Damage mechanics, the huge area of science that is being rapidly developed all over the world, has arisen from the fundamental studies by Kachanov and Rabotnov in which they suggested the structural parameters to be introduced into the equations of state and constitutive relations. He had a rare combination of the talent of scientist with the talent of teacher. In his absence, he was called a formalizer of genius. He was capable of grinding the statement of the problem and the basic results to make these an attractive subject matter of study for his students. His ability to simplify the problem not by vulgarizing it but by separating the essence from less important details attracted to him both young and mature scientists. It is not accidental that his first book, Strength of Materials, and his last book, Mechanics of Solids, are textbooks. V. V.Novozhilov called Strength of Materials a pearl among the books on strength. These books, together with the world-famous Creep of Structural Elements, are the major landmarks in the great area of science that was highlighted and clarified by his talent.

Yu. N. Rabotnov was born in 1914 in Nizhni Novgorod. His father was a teacher in a gymnasium and a member of St. Petersburg Astronomical Society. From his mother he inherited an interest in studying foreign languages. He delivered his lectures in France in brilliant "nuanced" French, made his presentations in Great Britain in English and in Germany in German. This love to languages originated from his brilliantly organized brain. He said that he studied various languages as if solving problems of logic, searching for unknown laws and relationships. He was able to translate the scientific literature from Polish, Czech, Georgian, and Rumanian. His Russian was much admired for melodiousness, fineness, and accuracy of phrases. His discussions in science serve as unforgettable examples of mastering the word and thought. In his review of a book of one scientist who was immoderately fruitful and indiscriminate in co-authors, he wrote: "The notion of the mechanics and mathematics culture is hardly amenable to the exact definition but its absence is always apparent for an expert." Being a hereditary Russian intellectual, Rabotnov was extremely careful in his scientific language. In the last years of his life, when answering some remarks on his book, he seriously explained that he preferred the complex sentence to the compound sentence, following the tradition that goes back to Gogol and Shchedrin.

Rabotnov had a great talent of mathematician and fundamental education combined with keen love of science and the ability to achieve his goals. He graduated from the Department of Mathematics and Mechanics of Moscow State University when he was 21. In his 32, he defended his D.Sc (Doctor of Sciences) dissertation and became a professor of Moscow University. In his 38, he was appointed the Dean of the Department of Mechanics and Mathematics and organized the Chair of Plasticity which he headed until the last years of his life. He was elected a Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Sciences in his 39 and a Full Member (Academician) in his 44.

An important part of his life in science was associated with Akademgorodok (Science Town) of the Siberian Branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences. He was the Deputy Head of the Scientific Center, the head of a laboratory at the Institute of Hydrodynamics, and the head of a chair at Novosibirsk University. A combination of the research activity with teaching of students and many years' personal work with young scientists permitted him to bring up several dozen of talented scientists. These scientists have become Doctors of Sciences and are successfully working in science. They all are proud to associate themselves with Rabotnov's scientific school. Among these scientists are I. F. Obraztsov, B. D.Annin, S. A. Shesterikov, N. I. Malinin, O. V. Sosnin, Yu. V. Nemirovskii, S. T. Mileiko, Yu. M. Tarnapol'skii, V. P. Tamuzh, E. V. Lomakin, Yu. V. Suvorova, V. I. Astaf'ev, G. I. Bryzgalin, A. V. Berezin, A. A. Movchan, A. N. Polilov, L. P. Yusupov, and many others. In 1965, he returned to Moscow University to his chair of plasticity. He preserved his faith to the idea of fertilizing combination of the theory and experiment and to the cooperation of universities with the Academy of Sciences. The latter concept is being implemented now under support of the Federal Program Integratsiya (Integration). Since 1965, he had headed the Laboratory of Strength of Engineering Materials at the Mechanical Engineering Research Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences. Later he renamed this laboratory to the Laboratory of Fracture Mechanics and then to the Laboratory of Mechanics of Composite Materials, in accordance with the subjects that seemed him to be of greatest importance. His astonishing ability to generate and comprehend new ideas and to feel prospects of new fine problems allowed him even at the earliest stage of the development of new scientific concepts to predict that it were the fracture mechanics and mechanics of composite materials that would become the most fruitful and demanded fields in solid mechanics. After Rabotnov's death, the Mechanical Engineering Research Institute published his selected papers under the title Topical Issues of Solid Mechanics. The papers for this book were selected on the basis of a simple criterion - they should be written by him alone, without co-authors. Strikingly, almost all these papers have opened a new area of science. Usually, he matured his concepts for a long time before giving birth to them, carefully grinded the presentation of the material and the mathematical rigor of the models, and then generously dispensed his results among his colleagues and students who subsequently developed these.

Rabotnov made a great contribution to the engineering theory of shells, which has been noted in numerous publications devoted to him. He discovered the edge effect and local buckling in elastic shells. The couple stress free state of such shells can be considered in terms of the special coordinates that do not coincide with the principal curvatures. He constructed a 2D model for elastoplastic media and applied this to solve the problem of bending of a tube that modeled a hardening material with a singular (conical) loading surface. He investigated the buckling of beams beyond the elastic limit, constructed a model of the medium with delayed yield limit, and solved a number of problems of propagation of waves in such media. He created the modern theory of creep that involved Volterra-Boltzmann's integral equations with hereditary-type difference kernels. This contribution is commonly recognized as one of his major results. He proposed the resolvent (invertible) fractional-exponential kernel and developed the operator algebra for such kernels. These results are presented in his monograph Fundamentals of the Hereditary Mechanics of Solids that has been translated into English. This monograph enhances Tables of Fractional-exponential Functions of Negative Parameters and Integrals for these Functions, that were published previously. These tables can serve as handbooks on trigonometric and elliptic integrals for the creep design of highly loaded elements. Many practical applications and the engineering theory of hereditary-type creep that takes into account the nonlinear behavior of the instantaneous strain diagram are presented in the book Short-term Creep by Yu. N. Rabotnov and S. T. Mileiko. The Russian translation of his lectures in France was published under the title An Introduction to Fracture Mechanics. This book is small in volume and the number of copies but brilliant in style and richness of ideas. His Lectures on Elasticity published by Moscow State University provide the most rigorous presentation of the modern theory of elasticity in terms of tensors on the basis of the variational principles. His last interest was in the structural mechanisms of fracture of materials. He studied the deceleration of a crack by the interface, a model of a rhombus from inextensible fibers that describes the dependence of the strength on the winding angles, and the compressive fracture of composite tubes in the "Chinese lantern" mode. He had an astonishing ability to see the fineness and simplicity of such problems. The interest in such problems is increasing in connection with teaching of the mechanics of composite materials. Rabotnov left us excellent training problems on the fracture mechanics of composites.

Rabotnov was a genuine Russian intellectual and a genuine scientist and did not care much about his career. Nevertheless, he was extremely widely recognized in Russia and in the world. For several years he was the Secretary Academician of the Department of Mechanics and Control Processes in the USSR Academy of Sciences, worked in the Lenin Prize Committee, was the editor-in-chief in a number of journals of the Academy of Sciences, the chairman of the Scientific Council at the Mechanical Engineering Research Institute and the chairman of the Science-and-Technology Council on Structural Strength. His recognition abroad was even higher, as is frequently the case for genuine scientists. He was elected, together with T. Yokobori, the Vice-President and one of the directors of the International Congress on Fracture. At the end of his life he received the title of Honorary President for his fundamental results in the field of damage mechanics.

For his great services in science and education he was decorated with numerous government awards - orders, medals, and the State Prize. But the main acknowledgment of his talent of scientist and teacher remains in hearts of his students and colleagues who worked with him and pay high tribute to the creative heritage of Rabotnov, an outstanding scientist and a remarkable person. As time elapses, his results find more and more applications and it is becoming clear that there are losses that cannot be recovered.
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