Category
Educator/Innovator
Born
1924
Died
2011
Career Began
1950
Retired
1988
Media
Joseph Penzien
Joseph Penzien
Source: National Academy of Engineering
Contributions to Structural Engineering History in Northern California

Joseph Penzien was born in 1924 in South Dakota, and spent his childhood there, as well as in Idaho. After putting himself through college and graduating from the University of Washington in 1945, he went to go work for the Army Corp of Engineers. He went back to school and received his Sc.D degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1950. He began as an assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley in 1953, and would remain there until his retirement in 1988. However, retirement did not stop Joe. He moved to Taipei, Taiwan, to consult at the firm Eastern International Engineers, which he had started with local partners in the early 1980’s. After a year at this firm, he returned home and with Dr. Wen S. Tseng launched International Civil Engineering Consultants, a Berkeley firm in which he served as Chairman until 2007.

Together with colleagues Ray Clough and Vitelmo Bertero, Joe developed the teaching and research programs in structural dynamics and earthquake engineering and helped shape the department into the top academic program it is today. His scholarly contributions as well as his engineering analysis and design expertise have received international acclaim.

Joe and Ray would establish the Earthquake Engineering Research Center (EERC) in the 1960’s to conduct the first large-scale shake table tests to understand how structures behaved under realistic earthquake motions. The two professors would publish the book Dynamics of Structures in 1975, which would become the international structural engineering standard for thirty years and become the basis of for many of today’s building code dynamic analysis provisions.

Awards & Accomplishments
  • National Academy of Engineering (1977)
  • Silver Medal of Paris (1980)
  • ASCE’s Nathan M. Newmark Medal (1983)
  • Alfred M. Freudenthal Medal (1986)
  • Berkeley Citation (1988)
  • EERI’s George W. Housner Medal (1993)
  • California Earthquake Safety Foundation’s Alfred E. Alquist Medal (1996)
  • Ernest F. Howard Award (2000)
  • EERI's Distinguished Lecture Award (2000)
  • Legend of Earthquake Engineering (2008)
  • ASCE Honorary Member
  • Architectural Institute of Japan Honorary Member
  • Peruvian Association of Earthquake Engineering Honorary Member
  • International Association of Earthquake Engineering Honorary Member
  • EERI Honorary Member
Related Engineer(s)
Related Organization(s)
  • University of Washington
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • Eastern International Engineers
  • International Civil Engineering Consultants