National Academy of Engineering Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 10
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Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 10

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             NICHOLAS J.HOFF                                          137
                             NICHOLAS J.HOFF
                                BY GEORGE S.SPRINGER
                NICHOLAS J.HOFF, professor emeritus and former chairman, of the
            Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University, died at his
            home on the Stanford campus on August 4, 1997.
                Nicholas was born in the small town of Magyarovar in western Hungary on
            January 3, 1906. At the start of the First World War, his father, a prosperous
            dentist, moved the family to Budapest. There Nicholas completed his secondary
            education at the same Evangelikus Gimnazium as Eugene Wigner, Leo Szilard,
            and John von Neumann. At this time he was an accomplished violinist and
            seriously contemplated a career in music. However, his interest in sports,
            especially in skiing and gliding, led him to engineering, which he studied under
            Aurel Stodola at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.
                After graduation Nicholas obtained a position at the only Hungarian airplane
            company at the time, the Weiss Manfred Aeroplane and Motor Works of
            Budapest. Here, from 1929 to 1939, Nicholas designed training planes and
            fighters for the Hungarian Air Force, with special interest in the airplanes’
            structure. In the late 1930s he contacted Stephen P.Timoshenko and asked if he
            could work toward a Ph.D. degree under his direction. Timoshenko accepted
            Nicholas as his student, and Nicholas arrived at Stanford in 1939. After receiving
            his Ph.D. in 1942,
             NICHOLAS J.HOFF                                          138
             Nicholas accepted a teaching position at the Polytechnic Institute in Brooklyn.
             There he undertook theoretical and experimental studies of the stability of
             monocoque-thin-walled and sandwich structures, and came up with results that
             are still being used to prevent buckling.
                In 1957 Provost Fred Terman invited Nicholas to Stanford to start a
             department of aeronautical engineering. Under his leadership the department
             developed into one of the leading centers of aeronautics and astronautics. While
             at Stanford he continued his research on the stability of thin-walled structures,
             and in 1966, published his widely acclaimed text Analysis of Structures.
                After he reached the mandatory retirement age in 1971, Nicholas served as a
            visiting professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and lectured widely in
            Japan, Europe, and Australia. Nicholas kept up a vigorous schedule until just a
            few months before his death. He swam every day and walked to the department
            twice a week to consult with colleagues.
                Nicholas received virtually every major award in his field, including the
            Centennial Medal of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) as
            well as the Theodore von Kármán Medal and the Worcester Reed Warner Medal
            of ASME. He was a recipient of the Daniel Guggenheim Medal of the American
            Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the Von Kármán Lecturer of
            the AIAA, and the Wilbur Wright Memorial Lecturer of the Royal Aeronautical
            Society of London. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in
            1965, the Hungarian Academy of Science, the French Academy of Sciences, the
            French Academy of Air and Space, and the International Academy of
            Aeronautics. Nicholas was also active in several engineering societies and was a
            life member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, honorary fellow of
            AIAA, and an honorary member of ASME. He was president of the 12th
            International Congress of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics.
                Nicholas is survived by his wife, Ruth Kleczewski Hoff, daughter-in-law,
            Karen Brandt of Palo Alto, and brother George Hoff of Santa Barbara.
             NICHOLAS J.HOFF                                                  139
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