|Mario G. Salvadori|
March 19, 1907|
|Died||June 25, 1997
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
|Education||University of Rome (doctorates in civil engineering, mathematics)|
|Spouse(s)||Giuseppina Tagliacozzo, Carol Salvadori|
|Children||Vieri Salvadori (son)
Michael Kazin (stepson)
|Parents||Riccardo Salvadori, Ermelinda Alatri|
|Engineering discipline||civil engineering
|Institution memberships||Columbia University
|Significant awards||Hoover Medal (1993)
Founders Award (1997, National Academy of Engineering)
Salvadori was born in Rome, Italy in 1907. His father, Riccardo, an engineer who worked for the telephone company, became the chief engineer of the city of Genoa when the phone company merged with their French counterpart. Salvadori's father later became the head of the gas and electric company in Spain. His mother, Ermelinda Alatri, belonged to a rich Jewish family. Following father's activities, Salvadori spent many years of his youth in Madrid and only returned to Italy in 1923. Two years later, when he was 18, he started what the first student jazz band in Italy; one of his youthful dreams was to become a concert conductor, although his parents did not encourage this. He was also a skillful mountain climber and he found several new climbing routes on Dolomites.
He earned doctoral degrees in both civil engineering and mathematics from the University of Rome in 1930 and 1933 respectively. Then he served as an instructor at Engineering department of the University of Rome and as consultant for Istituto per le Applicazioni del Calcolo (INAC), directed by Mauro Picone, his mathematics teacher. Thanks to a grant, he went to London and in the next two years he did graduate research in photoelasticity at University College London. Here he was in contact with Jews escaping from Nazi persecutions. Subsequently, when he returned to Rome, Salvadori was an convinced critic of the regime of Benito Mussolini, and he was aware of the risks for his mother's family. In 1939, when Mussolini promulgated the Italian Racial Laws, Salvadori left Italy, with his wife, who was also Jewish. At the same time he tried, with poor results, to convince his relatives to follow his example.
It was difficult to leave Italy, but in late 1938 he had received a grant to study the first television experiments in the United States – his teacher and friend Enrico Fermi was an influential member of the examining commission. The grant allowed Salvadori and his wife to get a six months visa. While in the U.S., Salvadori stored some goods in a safe deposit box, and left the key with Raymond D. Mindlin who he had met in New York a few months before, after a conference about the activities of Picone's institute. When he returned to Italy, he saw that there was no hope for a positive change in the political environment. The University of Rome and Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR) stripped him of his positions. After this, he and his wife left Italy for good, using the same visa. On the same day he arrived in New York, the CNR restored him as a consultant to INAC, thanks to the influence of Picone.
In the United States, Salvadori first worked for the Lionel Train Company until 1940, developing time and motion studies that so impressed the president that he was made an offer to become CEO, which he turned down. During World War II he was – unbeknownst to himself at the time – a consultant on the Manhattan Project for three years. After the war, he took up teaching at Columbia University, where he would become a professor in 1959 in the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation; he taught at Columbia for 50 years. As he reached retirement age, he began volunteering to work with under-privileged minority students from inner-city New York public schools. Developing a hands-on method of teaching kids about the built environment, he was able to reach out to thousands of students and teachers, giving them an appreciation of the usefulness of mathematics and science. In 1987 he founded the Salvadori Educational Center on the Built Environment, since renamed the Salvadori Center, a non-profit educational center on the campus of City College of New York which uses the "city as classroom" to help teachers and students master the core subject areas in their curricula.
From 1954 to 1960, Salvadori worked as a consultant and then principal at Weidlinger Associates, an engineering firm in New York City. He then became a partner until 1991, when he became honorary chairman. As a structural engineer, Salvadori became known for the design of thin concrete shells as he strove to create great architecture in all of his projects, including the concrete structural system for the CBS Building in Manhattan, designed by Eero Saarinen, and the seashell restaurant at the hotel La Concha, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He was also considered to be an authority on structural failure, and, as a forensic engineer helped to investigate numerous building failures due to natural disasters such as earthquakes and human error in construction or design.
Salvadori died in Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, New York City on June 25, 1997 of natural causes, at the age of 90. He was at the time the James Renwick Professor Emeritus of Civil Engineering and Applied Science and Professor of Architecture Emeritus at Columbia.
Awards and honors
- 1953: Wason Medal for Most Meritorious Paper, American Concrete Institute
- 1991: Pupin Medal, Columbia University, for outstanding service to the nation in architecture and engineering
- 1993: Hoover Medal, awarded jointly by five engineering societies, American Society of Civil Engineers
- 1993: Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education. American Institute of Architects and Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture; the first engineer ever to receive this award
- 1996: National Honor Member of Chi Epsilon, the national civil engineering honor society, the 52nd civil engineer to be so honored
- 1997: Founders Award, National Academy of Engineering
- Honorary degrees: Columbia University (doctor of science, 1978), New School for Social Research (fine arts, 1991)
Salvadori was the author of both well-respected textbooks on architectural structures and applied mathematics and books for the lay reader. Among the fifteen titles he wrote are Numerical Methods in Engineering (1953), Structural Design in Architecture (1967), Why Buildings Stand Up (1980), Why Buildings Fall Down (1992), and Why The Earth Quakes (1995). Salvadori is also known for his translation of Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks into English, and of Emily Dickinson's poems into Italian.
- Golderberger, Paul "Mario G. Salvadori, Engineer And Inner-City Teacher, 90" New York Times (June 28, 2007)
- Salvadori, Mario. "Addio alle crode"; Editor I. Zandonella Callegher; CDA & VIVALDA (2004) (ISBN 8874800487)
- Salvadori, M.G. "Activities of the Istituto Nazionale per le Applicazioni del Calcolo", 5th International Congress of Applied Mechanics, New York (1938)ne
- Salvadori, Mario G. A tangential life", unpublished autobiography. Large parts of this text wiith other documents are reported in Mario Salvadori e Mauro Picone, edited by A. Celli, M. Mattaliano and P. Nastasi, published in Italian by CNR Edizioni, Roma (2013)
- Brockaway, Kim "Mario Salvadori, Architect, Engineer" Columbia University Record (September 12, 1997)
- "Wason Medal for Most Meritorious Paper". American Concrete Institute. Retrieved 25 November 2009.
- Why Buildings Stand Up on W. W. Norton site
- Why Buildings Fall Down on W. W. Norton site
- Mario Salvadori, Architect, Engineer. By Kim Brockway
- The Salvadori Center: the educational non-profit he established to carry on his teaching
- Article in the New York Times
- Obituary in the New York Times
- Obituary in the Columbia University Record