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Structural Sherlock Creates Engineering Professorship
Structural Sherlock Creates Engineering Professorship

For over half a century, engineer Arthur (Art) M. James has wondered what makes badly designed buildings and bridges fail, and built sound ones that don't. The 82-year old engineer/sleuth/consultant/author wrote a book about his experiences, entitled Locomotive in the River and Other Stories from 50 Years of Investigating Structural Failures, a memoir that urges engineers to design for the worst-case scenario. "This isn't pie-in-the-sky stuff," James notes. "These are real cases." Why did the building's rooftop flood? Why did a loose barge crash into the dock? Why did the trestle collapse, dumping a train engine into the current below?

One result of his lifetime quest for fail-proof engineering is the Arthur M. James Professorship in PSU's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, created by James and his wife, Sandra, this year. Dr. Franz Rad has been selected as the first Arthur M. James Professor. Rad hopes to use James' book (he's the editor) in a course on forensic engineering. "Art has a great deal of knowledge, experience and wisdom, acquired through decades of diversified practice. We plan to use this book to help young engineers better understand ways to improve designs and avoid pitfalls."

Art James is a WWII veteran who trained as an engineer and an intelligence officer and served in the central Pacific until his discharge in 1946. He moved to Portland shortly thereafter and in 1951 went into partnership with Frank Honey. Their firm worked with architects building schools, commercial buildings, docks and short-span bridges, which fostered James' interest in diagnosing and preventing structural failures. Today as a semi-retired consultant, James still works in the Spalding Building in downtown Portland, where he started out 50 years ago. Needless to say, it hasn't fallen down.

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