Obituary: Professor Arnold William Hendry

Born: 10 September, 1921, in Buckie. Died: 14 December 2013, in Southport, aged 92

Prof Arnold Hendry: Author, academic and a key figure in the world of structural engineering

Professor Arnold W Hendry was one of the most eminent structural engineers of the 20th century – focusing latterly on structural masonry. His core skills were classical mathematical analysis, detailed and carefully executed laboratory tests and large-scale experiments in Edinburgh’s Torphin quarry – combined with a quick mind that enabled him to absorb a huge amount of detail and draw understandable and forward-looking conclusions. This was combined with his ability to turn inspirational research into world-leading publications so rapidly as to amaze his colleagues.

Born in 1921, Arnold William Hendry was educated at Buckie High School before attending Aberdeen University, from where he graduated BSc, PhD and DSc.

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After his first degree, Hendry worked for Sir William Arrol & Co, Glasgow (1941-43) and went on to hold positions in five universities.

At the University of Aberdeen, where he was a lecturer from 1943-49, he published his first book, Elements of Experimental Stress Analysis. As a result of this, he was appointed as a reader in civil engineering at King’s College London in 1949 at the age of 28. This was a huge achievement. By the time he was 30, Hendry had been appointed to the inaugural chair of civil engineering at the University of Khartoum, where he went on to be dean of engineering from 1951-57.

Many would have found this set of challenges fulfilling enough, particularly when he also had the responsibilities that come with having a young family, but Hendry saw this as an opportunity where one started “the day job” at around five o’clock in the morning, finishing at noon, when the heat precluded further work. Or at least it did for most people: to Hendry it was an opportunity to start working on his research. Working with a young lecturer, Leslie Jaeger, Hendry focused on the analysis of steel bridge deck grillages and his second book was published: The Analysis of Grid Frameworks and Related Structures.

This work led to the successful award of a PhD to Jaeger, who had graduated from the University of London and went on to hold the Regius Chair of Engineering in Edinburgh and then a Chair at McGill University in Montreal.

Much later, Arnold Hendry was awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree from the University of Khartoum for his efforts in establishing the Faculty of Engineering at the University.

At the age of 36, Hendry then took on the challenge of creating a new department of building science at the University of Liverpool (1957-63) – pulling together a multi-disciplinary team of civil engineers, an architect and a building physicist.

From Liverpool, Hendry returned to Scotland in 1964 to the foundation chair of civil engineering at the University of Edinburgh.

His challenge in Edinburgh was to create a department of civil engineering and building science, and then create a school of the built environment encompassing his own department as well as that of architecture (led by Sir Robert Matthew of RMJM fame) urban design (led by Prof Percy Johnson-Marshall) and geography (led by Prof James Wreford Watson). In the 1980s, Hendry became the first chairman of the newly formed embryonic School of Engineering. Throughout all these achievements, Arnold Hendry was a gifted structural engineer with an international vision. From the mid-1960s at the University of Edinburgh, he focused his skills on developing a rigorous understanding of structural masonry.

From Edinburgh flowed another series of landmark research and practice textbooks including Design of Masonry Structures (which he co-wrote with BP Sinha and SR Davies), and Reinforced and Prestressed Masonry and Structural Masonry. Overall, Hendry was the author of eight major academic works along with more than 150 papers.

Hendry was elected to Scotland’s National Academy of Science and Letters and was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1961, when he was 40.

He retired from his chair at Edinburgh in 1988 and became a professor emeritus. He continued with his research, still publishing, chairing an international Rilem Committee and acting as consultant to the structure of St Magnus’s Cathedral at Kirkwall.

He was awarded honorary membership of the Masonry Society of America (TMS) – the highest honour that it can bestow on a member. Later, in recognition of his exceptional research work related to masonry, he was awarded the John . Scalzi Research Award by the TMS in 1994.

One of the measures of an inspirational academic is the success of his protégés. In Professor Hendry’s case, there are many examples, beginning with Jaeger, his PhD student in Khartoum and including many of his those who worked with him in the Liverpool of the 1960s, such as Barry Wilson and Braj Sinha, both of whom went on to chairs at Edinburgh university.

It was the same story at Edinburgh, where Hendry’s many sabbatical visitors also often went on to greater things, including James Colville, who became dean of the University of Maryland and Dayantha Wijeyesekera, who is now the chancellor of Sri Lanka’s University of Vocational Technology.

“Before the current controversy regarding the cost escalation of the now new tram routes in Edinburgh, Hendry was deeply involved in the 1970s to 1990s controversy over whether to build major highways in the city or another form of tram. He was the president of the Scottish Association for Public Transport and an active member of the Cockburn Association. During this period, Hendry published a book, locally, entitled: The Edinburgh Tram Saga in 2002. His willingness to devote time to local conservation issues was much appreciated by the Cockburn Association, led at the time by Oliver Barratt.

Professor Hendry died peacefully on Saturday, 14th December 2013, aged 92 years. His wives Sheila and Elsa predeceased him, as did his sons George and Eric. He is survived by his daughter Margaret, a retired dental surgeon in Southport, two grandsons and two grand-daughters and a great grandson.

A memorial service for the Professor Arnold Hendry will be held at 2pm, on Friday 30, May at Mayfield Salisbury Church, Edinburgh, followed by refreshments at around 3:30pm at the Royal Society of Edinburgh, George Street.