Math and the buildings we live and work in


University of Hawaii professor Wai-Fah Chen reveals how the mathematical theory of plasticity shaped the modern structural design


Credit: World Scientific

The book is state-of-the-art and state-of-the-practice summary of structural and geotechnical engineering from theory to practice since 1950’s and Wai-Fah Chen’s tribute to his role models, Daniel C. Drucker, Lynn S. Beedle and more.

When the mathematical theory of plasticity was first introduced to civil engineers in the 1950s under the leadership of William Prager of Brown University, the topic was taught in the applied mathematics department with tensor notations that were hardly readable and understandable for most civil engineers. In this period, the classical incremental plasticity theory was in its golden time, but our computing capability in engineering practice was in its infancy. We had a rigorous theory but few practical solutions.

For engineering practice, a simple theory that is realistic and practical had to be developed. This came about in the form of the simple limit analysis theorems and techniques developed by Drucker et al. of Brown University in the 1950s. As a result, the plastic design method for steel structures were developed, refined and implemented into the AISC specifications in the 1960s, under the leadership of Lynn Beedle of Lehigh University in the U.S. among others.

The subsequent extension and expansion of the limit analysis based design applied to RC structures as well as to stability problems in geotechnical engineering problems are far reaching and most impressive. Most of these developments as well as directions of current efforts and future trends are described in Plasticity, Limit Analysis, Stability and Structural Design, authored by Wai-Fah Chen (University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA) and edited by: Lian Duan (California Department of Transportation, USA). The text covers topics from the fundamental theory of plasticity, to how the limit theorems and techniques were developed, to how the limit theorems based plastic design method for steel structures were implemented into the AISC specifications for building codes in the 1960s, and to how the methods were further extended to the geotechnical engineering field in the 1970s, to how the advanced analysis method was developed for steel building design from the 1990s to the 2000s, and to how the strut-tie-model was implemented into the ACI Building Code and the AASHTO Bridge Design Specifications in the 1900s.

The book is the personal anthology of Wai-Fah Chen’s utmost academic works and accomplishments. It presents 23 academic article bulletins in their original formats to highlight his 10 major research areas including Limit Analysis, Beam-Columns, Semi-rigid Construction, Offshore Structures, Concrete Plasticity, Soil Plasticity, Structural Stability, Concrete Building Construction, Advanced Analysis, and Structural Engineering, and documents 23 books along with their peer journal reviews, and lists more than 700 academic publications and 55 Ph.D. dissertations.


Plasticity, Limit Analysis, Stability and Structural Design retails for US$78 / £70 (paperback) and US$148 / £130 (hardcover) and is also available in electronic formats. To order or know more about the book, visit

About the Author

Dr Wai-Fah Chen – a Chinese-born American academic and widely recognized structural engineering specialist in the field of mechanics, materials, and computing – has certainly led a fascinating life. A well-respected leader in the field of plasticity, limit analysis, structural stability, and structural steel design over the past half-century, he has made major contributions to introduce the mathematical theory of plasticity to civil engineering practice, especially in the application of limit analysis methods to the geotechnical engineering field. Having taught at Lehigh University, and headed the engineering departments at the University of Hawaii and Purdue University, Chen is a widely cited author and the recipient of several national engineering awards, including the 1990 Shortridge Hardesty Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers and the 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Institute of Steel Construction. He was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering in 1995 and to Taiwan National Academy of Science, Academia Sinica, in 1998.

About the Editor

Dr Lian Duan, PhD, Purdue University, is a Senior Bridge Engineer and Structural Steel Committee Chair with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), USA. He had worked at the North China Power Design Institute from 1975 to 1978 and taught at Taiyuan University of Technology from 1981 to 1985.

Dr Duan has over 40 years of experience in structural and bridge engineering. He was lead engineer for the development of Caltrans Guide Specifications for Seismic Design of Steel Bridges, and is a registered Professional Engineer in California. He served as a member of several National Highway Cooperative Research Program (NCHRP) Panels and was a Transportation Research Board (TRB) Steel Committee member from 2000 to 2006.

He is the co-editor of the Handbook of International Bridge Engineering (CRC Press, 2014) and Bridge Engineering Handbook (CRC Press, 2014). He received the prestigious 2001 Arthur M Wellington Prize from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) for the paper, “Section Properties for Latticed Members of San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge”, Journal of Bridge Engineering, May 2000; the Professional Achievement Award from Professional Engineers in California Government in 2007; and the Distinguished Engineering Achievement Award from the Engineers’ Council in 2010.

About World Scientific Publishing Co.

World Scientific Publishing is a leading international independent publisher of books and journals for the scholarly, research and professional communities. World Scientific collaborates with prestigious organisations like the Nobel Foundation and US National Academies Press to bring high quality academic and professional content to researchers and academics worldwide. The company publishes about 600 books and over 140 journals in various fields annually. To find out more about World Scientific, please visit

For more information, contact Amanda at [email protected]

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