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Memorial Tributes: Volume 10 (2002)

Chapter:Nicholas J. Hoff

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Suggested Citation:"Nicholas J. Hoff." National Academy of Engineering. 2002. Memorial Tributes: Volume 10. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10403.
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Suggested Citation:"Nicholas J. Hoff." National Academy of Engineering. 2002. Memorial Tributes: Volume 10. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10403.
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NICHOLAS J. HOFF

1906–1997

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,

Suggested Citation:"Nicholas J. Hoff." National Academy of Engineering. 2002. Memorial Tributes: Volume 10. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10403.
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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 Struc tures.

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.

Suggested Citation:"Nicholas J. Hoff." National Academy of Engineering. 2002. Memorial Tributes: Volume 10. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10403.
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Suggested Citation:"Nicholas J. Hoff." National Academy of Engineering. 2002. Memorial Tributes: Volume 10. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10403.
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Suggested Citation:"Nicholas J. Hoff." National Academy of Engineering. 2002. Memorial Tributes: Volume 10. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10403.
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Page137
Suggested Citation:"Nicholas J. Hoff." National Academy of Engineering. 2002. Memorial Tributes: Volume 10. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10403.
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Page138
Suggested Citation:"Nicholas J. Hoff." National Academy of Engineering. 2002. Memorial Tributes: Volume 10. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10403.
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This is the 10th Volume in the series Memorial Tributes compiled by the National Academy of Engineering as a personal remembrance of the lives and outstanding achievements of its members and foreign associates. These volumes are intended to stand as an enduring record of the many contributions of engineers and engineering to the benefit of humankind. In most cases, the authors of the tributes are contemporaries or colleagues who had personal knowledge of the interests and the engineering accomplishments of the deceased. Through its members and foreign associates, the Academy carries out the responsibilities for which it was established in 1964.

Under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering was formed as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. Members are elected on the basis of significant contributions to engineering theory and practice and to the literature of engineering or on the basis of demonstrated unusual accomplishments in the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology. The National Academies share a responsibility to advise the federal government on matters of science and technology. The expertise and credibility that the National Academy of Engineering brings to that task stem directly from the abilities, interests, and achievements of our members and foreign associates, our colleagues and friends, whose special gifts we remember in this book.

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