Jan Hult

Jan_Hult Professor Emeritus Jan Hult passed away on 20 February 2013, 85 years old. He was Secretary-General of IUTAM during the period 1976-1984 and thereafter Member-at-Large. He also represented IUTAM in ICSU.

Jan Hult was born on 9 December 1927 in Stockholm, Sweden. After studying Engineering Physics at KTH, Stockholm, he was engaged in PhD studies with Professor Folke Odqvist (President of IUTAM 1956-1960) and with Professor Frank McClintock at MIT, Boston. In 1957 he earned his DSc degree at MIT and in 1958, his studies led to a PhD degree at KTH. In 1962, he was appointed Professor in Solid Mechanics at Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg. In the latter part of his career, he became strongly interested in the history of engineering and established the subject at Chalmers. After his retirement, he continued supervising PhD-students in this field.

Jan Hult’s early studies of the mechanics of cracks and fatigue with McClintock resulted in a classical solution to the mode III small-scale yielding problem in 1956. In his monograph with Odqvist “Kriechfestigkeit metallischer Werkstoffe“ in 1962, he introduced Kachanov’s recently developed theory of damage mechanics to the western world. For this field of research, he coined the term “continuum damage mechanics” around 1977; this term was quickly adopted by the scientific community.

Jan Hult firmly believed in science as a means for human progress, global understanding and welfare. This motivated his active support and initiation of international and national networks and scientific bodies. At Chalmers, he welcomed researchers from different parts of the world, which provided a truly international environment for his students and colleagues.

During his entire professional career Jan Hult put emphasis on teaching on the undergraduate level. He modernized the courses, wrote textbooks, and gave lectures that filled his students with enthusiasm and confidence. He was a keen experimenter in new ways of teaching. His approach was often concept-centric. He had an astonishing ability to design or extract “the simplest example, which is not trivial” and around that build an enhanced understanding, whether it was in a scientific or educational context. As an educator he also gave radio speeches, open lectures, and wrote a number of popular science books. These activities were much appreciated, especially as he demonstrated his usual elegance in writing, graphical design and oral presentations.

In recognition of his work, Jan Hult became Honorary Doctor at Strathclyde University, Glasgow, and at Politechnika Krakowska, Kraków. He also became a Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, and the Royal Society of Arts and Sciences in Gothenburg. For his significant contributions to the activities and the development of Chalmers, he received the Chalmers Medal.

Enthusiasm, ingenuity, lucidity, openness, and intellectual attitude characterized Jan Hult throughout his life. We are many students, colleagues and friends who remember him and his achievements with great gratitude and admiration.


Lars Bråthe, Birger Karlsson, Bengt Lundberg, Ulf Stigh