In Memoriam, Christian Meyer

Jun 10 2020

In Memoriam, Christian Meyer

Professor Emeritus, Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics

1943 - 2020



Professor Christian Meyer passed away peacefully in his sleep on June 5, 2020 after many years of debilitating illness. He was pre-deceased by his wife Hwa Soon in April, 2020.

Christian Meyer was born in 1943 in Magdeburg, Germany, in central Northern Germany, which later became part of East Germany. At the end of 1948, the family fled to West Germany and settled in Hannover, where he attended 4 years of elementary school. In 1953, the family moved to Bonn where he attended the Gymnasium for nine years and graduated with the Abitur.  In 1962, Christian spent the mandatory six months as an apprentice in construction and then enrolled in the Technical University of Berlin. After 5 semesters of study, he received the “Vordiplom” degree, something of a half-way mark towards the Diploma in civil engineering. He then went to UC Berkeley for a one year MS at the end of which he married Hwa Soon, an MA student in musicology with an undergraduate degree in piano from Seoul National University, whom he met in Berkeley’s International House. Within five years he earned both the MS and PhD degrees.

Meyer worked in the design firm AC Martin in Los Angeles and then in Boston, where he joined the Stone & Webster Engineering Corporation until he decided to return to academia.

In 1978, he accepted a faculty position at Columbia University’s Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics where he eventually served as Department Chair from 2007 to 2009, highlighting his dedication and service to the University. In the 1990s, he served for several years on the University Senate as representative of SEAS tenured faculty.  During his tenure in the Senate, he chaired the Budget Review Committee and he is remembered for his great dedication and service.

His main research efforts were originally centered on the analysis of concrete structures subjected to severe earthquakes. But after having developed with his students very complex models of concrete members, he realized that these models were almost exclusively of an empirical nature which was not as intellectually challenging as building models based on basic material properties and principles of mechanics. Thus he became interested in concrete material science and which drew his primary attention for the next 30–plus years.

Professor Meyer had an extremely productive scholarly career, publishing over 200 technical papers. He also published the textbook “Design of Concrete Structures”, Prentice-Hall 1995.  In recognition of his major research contributions, he was awarded the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Research Prize for Senior American Scientists.

He will be missed by his colleagues and the many students who benefited from his instruction and his dedicated mentorship.