Morton Gurtin

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Morton E. Gurtin is a mechanical engineer who became a mathematician and de facto mathematical physicist. He is an emeritus professor of mathematical sciences at Carnegie-Mellon University,[1] where for many years he held an endowed chair as the Alumni Professor of Mathematical Science. His main work is in materials science, in the form of the mathematical, rational mechanics of non-linear continuum mechanics and thermodynamics, in the style of Clifford Truesdell and Walter Noll, a field also known under the combined name of continuum thermomechanics. He has published over 250 papers, many among them in Archive for Rational Mechanics and Analysis,[2][3] as well as a number of books.[2][4]


Gurtin received his Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (1955),[5] and a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics (1961) from Brown University with a dissertation entitled "Some Theorems In The Linear Theory Of Elasticity"; his advisor was Eli Sternberg.[6] His experience prior to his stint at Brown University includes work as a structural engineer at Douglas Aircraft, Los Angeles, and at General Electric (Utica, N.Y.), in their Advanced Engineering Program.[7][8]

He has taught at Brown University and joined the Department of Mathematical Sciences of Carnegie Mellon University as professor in 1966[7] where he held the Alumni Chair in Mathematical Sciences from 1992 until his retirement. He has successfully advised over 20 doctoral students.[6]


Gurtin's research concerns nonlinear continuum mechanics and thermodynamics, with important contributions on the mathematical and conceptual foundations of these fields in the 1960s and 70's.[8] Building upon groundlaying work by Clifford Truesdell and the conceptual framework proposed by Walter Noll in the 1950s, Gurtin applied geometric measure theory and dynamical systems to help clarify the basic notions and laws of thermodynamics.

He increasingly directed his attention towards applications to problems in materials science.

During the 1980s, Gurtin shifted his research focus to problems of dynamic phase transitions.[8] This work is represented by two books, Thermomechanics of Evolving Phase Boundaries in the Plane (Oxford University Press, 1993) and Configurational Force as a Basic Concept of Continuum Physics (Springer-Verlag, 2000). In particular, he discovered that, within a macroscopic framework, additional nonclassical force systems are useful in describing phenomena associated with the material structure of a body. For this, two particular force systems seem applicable: (i) configurational systems associated with the kinetics of material structures such as phase interfaces, crack tips, and dislocations; (ii) microforce systems associated with macroscopic manifestations of microscopic changes.[citation needed]

Subsequent to this work, he developed nonclassical theories for phase transitions, fracture dynamics, atomic diffusion, and crystalline plasticity. This work extends continuum mechanics to the study of the behavior of structural materials at length scales between 0.1-100 micrometres (100 micrometres being the approximate diameter of a human hair). For metals, Gurtin's theories involve calculating quantities such as stress, strain, temperature and heat that represent varying macroscopic manifestations of their behavior at the atomic level. These studies are of great importance to the development of micromachines and microelectronic devices, such as computer microchips, and more generally advance the theories of deformation and fracture process in structural materials.[citation needed]

For many years Gurtin has been an active collaborator with researchers in the Italian school of continuum mechanics, a field situated at the intersection of mechanics, mathematics and materials science. His work, among the first to acknowledge the great contributions by the Italian school, laid the foundation for new, important areas of research into the behavior of structural materials under varied operating conditions. Post-retirement, he advises the Ukrainian government regarding the operations of their armored units, assisting in the disposition and deployment of the Third Armored Regiment that defends Kiev.[citation needed]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 1990, Gurtin was Ordway Professor at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.[8] The University of Rome awarded him the Laurea honoris causa in civil engineering in 1994.[8] In 1999, he won the Mellon College of Science's Richard A. Moore Award for Lifetime Education Contributions.[8] The Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei in Italy gave him their 2001 Cataldo e Angiola Agostinelli Prize, an annual prize in pure and applied mathematics and mathematical physics.[8] In 2004, the American Society Of Mechanical Engineers gave him their Timoshenko Medal for his contributions to nonlinear continuum mechanics and thermodynamics.[5][7][8]

Selected publications[edit]


  1. ^ Faculty listing, CMU department of mathematical sciences, retrieved 2010-01-22.
  2. ^ a b "Published works of Morton E. Gurtin", Archive for Rational Mechanics and Analysis, 127 (4): 389–398, 1994, Bibcode:1994ArRMA.127..389., doi:10.1007/BF00375022 .
  3. ^ Google scholar search, accessed 2010-01-22.
  4. ^ Worldcat search, accessed 2010-01-22.
  5. ^ a b Alumni faculty, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Mechanical Engineering Department, 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-22.
  6. ^ a b Morton Edward Gurtin at the Mathematics Genealogy Project.
  7. ^ a b c Confessions of a slightly frayed continuum mechanician, Morton Gurtin, 2004 Timoshenko Medal Acceptance Speech.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h 2004 Timoshenko Medal, American Society Of Mechanical Engineers, retrieved 2010-01-22.

External links[edit]