Engineer John Hutchinson elected to the Royal Society

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John W. Hutchinson, Abbott and James Lawrence Professor of Engineering and Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Mechanics Emeritus, has been elected to foreign membership in the Royal Society.

He was among eight foreign members and 44 new fellows welcomed on May 3 by the United Kingdom’s elite national academy.

Hutchinson is a seminal scholar in the field of solid mechanics and materials engineering, and is more highly cited than any other researcher in this area.

Hutchinson studied engineering mechanics as an undergraduate at Lehigh University. After earning his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Harvard in 1963, he spent a year in Denmark before returning to join the Harvard faculty, where he very soon made dramatic contributions to the study of buckling in elastic structures.

Over a 50-year career at Harvard, he has been one of the major developers of nonlinear fracture mechanics. He has made groundbreaking contributions in micromechanics, including the plasticity of polycrystals, cracking of fiber-reinforced ceramics, and delamination of thermal barrier coatings (TBCs).

For example, ceramic TBCs are widely used in aircraft and power generation turbines to shield the engine blades and other metal components from high temperatures. However, the use of TBCs contributes to an industry trend toward engines that operate at even higher temperatures, threatening the durability of the coatings.

Concern for plastic deformation at the scale of microns led to his publications in strain-gradient plasticity, which have sparked a world-wide explosion in related research.