Education and early years
Michel Bakhoum was born in June 1913 in Cairo. His parents moved to Cairo five years beforehand from a small village near the town of Tahta in Northern Egypt. He received several awards; the first was in 1931 (Prince Omar Tosson Award) as he was the first of his class in the High School diploma competition, which included all the High School diploma students in Egypt.
He graduated from the Civil Engineering Department at Cairo University in 1936 (then known as Fouad I University). He completed his M.Sc. in 1942, and his first Ph.D. in 1945. He was the second person in Egypt to receive a Ph.D. from the Faculty of Engineering at Cairo University. He did not feel that this was sufficient in terms of education and wanted to learn more. At that time, the Second World War had ended allowing for the possibility of studying in the USA. In 1945, he traveled to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he got his second Ph.D. Wishing to strengthen his background in mathematics, theoretical mechanics and elasticity theory, he spent one year at Columbia University in New York. He was working at the same time in a consulting firm in New York, to get practical experience.
In 1949, Michel Bakhoum returned to Egypt where he started teaching in the Structural Engineering Department at Cairo University as an assistant professor. He started a consulting firm in 1950 with his colleague Ahmed Moharram. The company is now known as ACE: Arab Consulting Engineers (Moharram-Bakhoum). The company started as a structural-design office with four people in 1950, now the company has over eight-hundred staff working with the consulting firm ACE. The consulting firm has designed several buildings, bridges, shells, grain silos, cement factories, airports, industrial plants, and other structures in Egypt and in the Middle East. The firm contributed immensely to the introduction of prestressed concrete structures in Egypt.
Through the consulting engineering firm ACE, Michel Bakhoum did consulting work for over four-hundred-and-fifty projects, and designed a number of challenging structures. For example, he worked on seven buildings more than forty stories high in Cairo, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building, which was the second tallest building in Cairo at the time (now fourth highest). These buildings were designed before computers were available. He also designed the Cairo Stadium, with an official capacity of eighty thousand. It happened, however, that in the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations in 1969, more than one-hundred-and-twenty-thousand people attended the finals (50% more than the design capacity) without any problems. In addition to the above, he designed the Ramses prestressed-concrete bridge over the River Nile in Cairo. When completed in 1976, it had the longest span (105 m) for a bridge over the River Nile. It held the record till 1986, when other bridges, also designed by his firm (ACE) surpassed this span. Other interesting structures that he designed included the shells (hyperbolic paraboloid) for the Cairo International Fair. These shells held the World Record for prestressed shells for about ten years.
Michel Bakhoum taught civil and structural engineering students for about forty years, mainly at Cairo University, but also at Ain Shams and Assiut Universities. He was a teaching assistant from 1937 to 1945, and then as assistant professor and professor from 1949 till 1981. It is estimated that he taught more than ten-thousand civil-engineering students. In addition to teaching, he was very much interested in research. He supervised twenty-one M.Sc. theses and six Ph.Ds. It is interesting to mention that some of the methods he developed in his M.Sc. are still used in practice in Egypt to compute stresses in building columns and bridge piers. A paper was published about this method in the Journal of the American Concrete Institute in 1948. The comment of the reviewer is given at the end of the article. He is the author of the book Structural Mechanics, written in English, which comes to 1,430 pages. The book is still used as a reference in many universities in Egypt and in other countries.
Michel Bakhoum was a fellow and member in several technical societies — Fellow of the Institution of Structural Engineers (UK), and representative in Egypt from 1972 to 1979; Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers; Member of the American Concrete Institute; and Member of the International Association for Bridges and Structural Engineering and various other engineering and academic bodies.
Michel Bakhoum received three awards from the President of Egypt for his designs of Cairo International Stadium, Cairo Airport, and industrial factories, in 1960, 1963, and 1964 respectively. He received an award for designing prestress shells in 1966 from the FIP (International federation for Prestressed Concrete).
Michel Bakhoum died on 21 April 1981. The next day, the daily Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram published a front page news article about him, citing that he died, and summarized his main works. Al-Ahram is the main newspaper in Egypt, established in 1876, with about one million copies printed daily. News in the first page of Al-Ahram about people who have died, is only kept for the most notable in Egypt. In addition, a street in the Dokki District (in Giza, Greater Cairo) where he lived was named after him, Dr. Michel Bakhoum Street. This is considered an honor bestowed to very few people in Egypt. An article about Michel Bakhoum appears in the Dictionary of Distinguished Egyptians in the 20th Century published by the Middle East News Agency in 1998. Also, an article in the Book entitled History of the Coptic Church, Volume 8: 20th Century.
- Michel Bakhoum: Pioneer of the Built Infrastructure of Africa’s Most Populous Nation, By Seif El Rashidi, Great Achievements, Structure Magazine, Apr, 2014, http://www.structuremag.org/wp-content/uploads/D-GreatAch-Rashidi-Apr141.pdf