Stephen Timoshenko

Stepan Prokofyevich Timoshenko (Russian: Степан Прокофьевич Тимошенко, IPA: [sʲtʲɪˈpan prɐˈkofʲɪ̯ɪvʲɪt͡ɕ tʲɪmɐˈʂɛnkə], Ukrainian: Степан Прокопович Тимошенко) (December 23, 1878 May 29, 1972), was a Ukrainian-born[3][4] Russian[5][6][7] and, later, an American[8] engineer and academician. He is considered to be the father of modern engineering mechanics. An inventor and one of the pioneering mechanical engineers at the St. Petersburg Polytechnic University. A founding member of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, Timoshenko wrote seminal works in the areas of engineering mechanics, elasticity and strength of materials, many of which are still widely used today. Having started his scientific career in the Russian Empire, Timoshenko emigrated to the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes during the Russian Civil War and then to the United States.[1][9][10][11][12][13][14]

Stephen Timoshenko
Тимошенко Степан Прокопович
Stepan Prokopovych Timoshenko

(1878-12-23)December 23, 1878
DiedMay 29, 1972(1972-05-29) (aged 93)
NationalityRussian Empire, then United States after about 1927
Alma materPetersburg State Transport University
Known forTimoshenko beam theory
AwardsLouis E. Levy Medal (1944)
Timoshenko Medal (1957)
Elliott Cresson Medal (1958)
Fellow of the Royal Society[1]
Scientific career
FieldsEngineering Mechanics
InstitutionsKiev Polytechnic Institute, Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, University of Michigan, Stanford University
Doctoral students


Timoshenko was born in the village of Shpotovka in the Chernigov Governorate which at that time was a territory of the Russian Empire (today in Konotop Raion, Ukraine). He studied at a Realschule (Russian: реальное училище) in Romny, Poltava Governorate (now in Sumy Oblast) from 1889 to 1896. In Romny his schoolmate and friend was future famous semiconductor physicist Abram Ioffe. Timoshenko continued his education towards a university degree at the St Petersburg Institute of engineers Ways of Communication. After graduating in 1901, he stayed on teaching in this same institution from 1901 to 1903 and then worked at the Saint Petersburg Polytechnical Institute under Viktor Kirpichov 1903–1906. In 1905 he was sent for one year to the University of Göttingen where he worked under Ludwig Prandtl.

In the fall of 1906 he was appointed to the Chair of Strengths of Materials at the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute. The return to his native Ukraine turned out to be an important part of his career and also influenced his future personal life. From 1907 to 1911 as a professor at the Polytechnic Institute he did research in the earlier variant of the Finite Element Method of elastic calculations, the so-called Rayleigh method. During those years he also pioneered work on buckling, and published the first version of his famous Strength of Materials textbook. He was elected dean of the Division of Structural Engineering in 1909.

In 1911 he signed a protest against Minister for Education Kasso and was fired from the Kiev Polytechnic Institute. In 1911 he was awarded the D. I. Zhuravski prize of the St.Petersburg Ways of Communication Institute that helped him survive after losing his job. He went to St Petersburg where he worked as a lecturer and then a Professor in the Electrotechnical Institute and the St Petersburg Institute of the Railways (1911–1917). During that time he developed the theory of elasticity and the theory of beam deflection, and continued to study buckling. In 1918 he returned to Kiev and assisted Vladimir Vernadsky in establishing the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences – the oldest academy among the Soviet republics other than Russia. In 1918–1920 Timoshenko headed the newly established Institute of Mechanics of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, which today carries his name. Younger brother of Stephen, Serhiy Tymoshenko, was a Ukrainian Minister of Communication and participated in the Second Winter Campaign against the Soviet regime.[15]

After the Armed Forces of South Russia of general Denikin had taken Kiev in 1919, Timoshenko moved from Kiev to Rostov-on-Don. After travel via Novorossiysk, Crimea and Constantinople to the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, he arrived in Zagreb, where he got professorship at the Zagreb Polytechnic Institute. In 1920, during the brief liberation of Kiev from Bolsheviks, Timoshenko travelled to the city, reunited with his family and returned with his family to Zagreb.

He is remembered for delivering lectures in Russian while using as many words in Croatian as he could; the students were able to understand him well.

United States

In 1922 Timoshenko moved to the United States where he worked for the Westinghouse Electric Corporation from 1923 to 1927, after which he became a faculty professor in the University of Michigan where he created the first bachelor's and doctoral programs in engineering mechanics. His textbooks have been published in 36 languages. His first textbooks and papers were written in Russian; later in his life, he published mostly in English. In 1928 he was an Invited Speaker of the ICM in Bologna.[16] From 1936 onward he was a professor at Stanford University.

In 1957 ASME established a medal named after Stephen Timoshenko; he became its first recipient. The Timoshenko Medal honors Stephen P. Timoshenko as the world-renowned authority in the field of mechanical engineering and it commemorates his contributions as author and teacher. The Timoshenko Medal is given annually for distinguished contributions in applied mechanics.

In addition to his textbooks, Timoshenko wrote Engineering Education in Russia and an autobiography, As I Remember, the latter first published in Russian in 1963 with its English translation appearing in 1968.

In 1960 he moved to Wuppertal (Western Germany) to be with his daughter. He died in 1972 and his ashes are buried in Alta Mesa Memorial Park, Palo Alto, California.

List of Timoshenko's doctoral students in the United States

University of Michigan
  • Coates, W. M., (1929)
  • Donnell, L. H., (1930)
  • Billevicz, V., (1931)
  • Everett, F. L., (1931)
  • Frocht, M. M., (1931)
  • Goodier, J. N., (1931)
  • Brandeberry, J. B., (1932)
  • MacCullough, G. H., (1932)
  • Jamieson, J., (1933)
  • Taylor, W. H., (1933)
  • Verse, G. L., (1933)
  • Vesselowsky, S. T., (1933)
  • Weibel, E. E., (1933)
  • Jakkula, A. A., (1934)
  • Maugh, L. C., (1934)
  • Schoonover, R. H., (1934)
  • Way, S., (1934)
  • Wojtaszak, I. A., (1934)
  • Allan, G. W. C., (1935)
  • Horger, O. J., (1935)
  • Maulbetsch, J. L., (1935)
  • Miles, A. J., (1935)
  • Young, D. H., (1935)
  • Anderson, C. G., (1936)
  • Fox, E. N., (1936)
  • Hetenyi, M. I., (1936)
  • Hogan, M. B., (1936)
  • Marin, J., (1936)
  • Zahorski, A. T., (1937)
Stanford University


  • Applied Elasticity, with J. M. Lessells, D. Van Nostrand Company, 1925
  • Vibration Problems in Engineering, D. Van Nostrand Company, 1st Ed. 1928, 2nd Ed. 1937, 3rd Ed. 1955 (with D. H. Young)
  • Strength of Materials, Part I, Elementary Theory and Problems, D. Van Nostrand Company, 1st Ed. 1930, 2nd Ed. 1940, 3rd Ed. 1955
  • Strength of Materials, Part II, Advanced Theory and Problems, D. Van Nostrand Company, 1st Ed. 1930, 2nd Ed. 1941, 3rd Ed. 1956
  • Theory of Elasticity , McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1st Ed. 1934, 2nd Ed. 1951 (with J. N. Goodier)
  • Elements of Strength of Materials, D. Van Nostrand Co., 1st Ed. 1935, 2nd Ed. 1940, 3rd Ed. 1949 (with G.H. MacCullough), 4th Ed. 1962 (with D.H. Young)
  • Theory of Elastic Stability, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1st Ed. 1936, 2nd Ed. 1961 (with J. M. Gere)
  • Engineering Mechanics, with D.H. Young, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1st Ed. 1937, 2nd Ed. 1940, 3rd. Ed. 1951, 4th Ed. 1956
  • Theory of Plates and Shells , McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1st Ed. 1940, 2nd Ed. 1959 (with S. Woinowsky-Krieger)
  • Theory of Structures, with D. H. Young, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1st Ed. 1945, 2nd Ed. 1965
  • Advanced Dynamics, with D. H. Young, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1948
  • History of The Strength of Materials, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1953
  • Engineering Education in Russia, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1959
  • As I Remember, D. Van Nostrand, 1968, ASIN: B000JOIJ7I
  • Mechanics of Materials, with J. M. Gere, 1st edition, D. Van Nostrand Company, 1972

Further reading


  1. Mansfield, E. H.; Young, D. H. (1973). "Stephen Prokofievitch Timoshenko 1878-1972". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 19: 679. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1973.0025.
  2. Stephen Prokofyevich Timoshenko at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  3. SODERBERG, C. RICHARD SODERBERG (1982). STEPHEN P. TIMOSHENKO 1878—1972 (PDF). WASHINGTON D.C.: NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES. p. 323. THE MAJOR FACTS of the life of Stephen P. Timoshenko are by now well known. He was born as Stepen Prokofyevich Timoshenko* in the village of Shpotovka in the Ukraine on December 23,1878.
  4. Moon, Francis C.: Social Networks in the History of Innovation and Invention. London: Springer, 2014. p. 150.
  5. The Life and Work of Stephen P. Timoshenko
  6. The Chartered Mechanical Engineer: The Journal of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Volume 10. 1954. p. 466.
  7. University of Michigan. Faculty History Project
  8. Stephen Timoshenko on NNDB.
  9. Stephen P. Timoshenko (1968). As I Remember; The Autobiography of Stephen P. Timoshenko. Princeton, Van Nostrand.
  10. C. Richard Soderberg (1982). Stephen P. Timoshenko, 1878-1972: A biographical memoir. The National Academies Press (National Academy of Sciences).
  11. Biographical Memoirs about Stephen P. Timoshenko (machine-read extracts). The National Academies Press (National Academy of Sciences)
  12. Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 19 (1993). Stephen Timoshenko. Toronto: University of Toronto.
  13. В. Борисов, Тимошенко Степан Прокофьевич,Institute of the History of the Natural Sciences and Technology of the Russian Academy of Science
  14. Писаренко Г.С. Степан Прокофьевич Тимошенко. М., 1991.
  15. Tymoshenko, Serhii. Encyclopedia of Ukraine.
  16. Timoshenko, S. "The stiffness of suspension bridges". In: Atti del Congresso Internazionale dei Matematici: Bologna del 3 al 10 de settembre di 1928. vol. 6. pp. 305–306.

See also

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