Ferdinand Freudenstein

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Ferdinand Freudenstein
Born (1926-12-05)December 5, 1926
Frankfurt, Germany
Died March 30, 2006(2006-03-30) (aged 79)
Nationality German
Fields Physics, mechanical engineering
Alma mater New York University
Harvard University
Columbia University
Known for works in programming computation and kinematics
Notable awards National Academy of Engineering, National Academy of Science

Ferdinand Freudenstein was an American physicist and engineer who is considered to be the "Father of Modern Kinematics." Freudenstein made revolutionary contribution applying digital computation to the kinematic synthesis of mechanisms.[1] In his Ph.D dissertation, Freudenstein developed what is to become the Freudenstein Equation, which uses a simple algebraic method to synthesize planar four-bar function generators.[2]

Freudenstein spent his entire career working and teaching in Columbia University as the Higgins Professor of Mechanical Engineering. Over his life-time, Freudenstein mentored over 500 Ph.D. students in hundreds of universities across the world.[citation needed]

Early life[edit]

Ferdinand Freudenstein was born into a Jewish family, on May 12, 1926, in Frankfurt, Germany. He was the son of a successful merchant George Freudenstein and Charlotte Rosenberg. At the age of ten, Freudenstein with his parents and two sisters fled Nazi Germany for refuge in the Netherlands.

In the spring of 1937, Freudenstein moved to England after having spent six months in the city of Amsterdam. In England, he joined his brother and studied in London. During Hitler's blitzkrieg, Freudenstein temporarily moved to Cambridge, England, for safety, and then spent several years in Llandudno, North Wales. Meanwhile, his father and brother were sent to exile in Australia by the British government which regarded all adult male German citizens as enemy of the state.

In 1942, when he was 16 years old, Ferdinand with his mother and two sisters sailed from England to Trinidad where they remained for six weeks before moving permanently to the United States.


Arriving in New York City in 1942, Freudenstein enrolled in New York University, studying two years before joining the US Army. After the army, he used the financial assistance granted by the GI Bill to study at Harvard University, where he earned his M.S. in mechanical engineering in 1948.

After receiving his M.S., Freudenstein worked as a development engineer for the American Optical Company in Buffalo, New York. After two years, Freudenstein decided to pursue a Ph.D. degree in Columbia University under the supervision of H. Dean Baker.


In 1954, Freudenstein was appointed as the associate professor of mechanical engineering in Columbia. Then in 1958, he was promoted to the chair of the university's Department of Mechanical Engineering and then full-ranking professor in 1959. Under his leadership, Columbia attracted numerous academics including mathematician Oenne Bottema and British mathematician Eric Primrose. In 1985, Freudenstein became Columbia's Higgins Professor of Mechanical Engineering, a position which he held until his death.

While working as a faculty at Columbia, Freudenstein also consulted for Bell Telephone Laboratories, IBM, and General Motors. His many consultations were later made into open publications.

As a professor, Freudenstein had over 500 Ph.D. students including current Stanford professor of mechanical engineering Bernard Roth, engineer George Sandor, and Texas A&M professor Norris Stubbs. Norris Stubbs is a former Olympian from the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City where he ran for the Bahamas. His teaching became so influential across the world that a Freudenstein Academic Tree[3] was created in his honor. Freudenstin's prominence in the field of kinematics of mechanisms inspired the publication of Modern Kinematics: Developments in the Last Forty Years, written during the celebration of his 65th birthday.[4]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Freudenstein was elected member of the National Academy of Engineering in 1979.[5] He is an honorary fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, a Guggenheim Fellow and a recipient of the Egleston Medal conferred by Columbia University. Freudenstein had served on the advisor panels of the National Science Foundation and the United States Army Research Laboratory.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ M. Checcarelli (Editor), 2007, Distinguished Figures in Mechanism and Machine Science, Springer. http://www.springerlink.com/content/p68g683357756307/fulltext.pdf?page=1 Life and career of Ferdinand Freudenstein
  2. ^ http://columbiauniversity.org/cu/mechanical/announcements/033006Freudenstein/index.html
  3. ^ http://my.fit.edu/~pierrel/ff.html
  4. ^ A. G. Erdman (Editor), 1993, Modern Kinematics: Developments in the last 40 years, Wiley-Interscience.
  5. ^ http://www.nae.edu/nae/naepub.nsf/Members+By+UNID/2C9AE917A8B0173B86257552006B31E1?opendocument National Academy of Engineering Archive

External links[edit]