Machine Design

75 years of Innovators: Richard Courant

Finite-element analysis (FEA) is changing the way engineers design everything from rockets to toys.

In the 75 years since Machine Design began publication, here are some of the people who have changed the way we live.

Richard Courant
First in FEA

It lets them test "virtual products" in cyberspace under varying structural and thermal loads, or different air and fluid flows, to see if the designs will operate in real-world conditions. It was initially developed by Richard Courant, a German mathematician. As a math professor at the University of New York, he first used FEA in 1943, though the term "FEA" didn't come on the scene until 1960. The first application was in the form of the Ritz numerical analysis and minimization to solve vibration problems. But it took the development of desktop computing and low-priced computing power to make the number-crunching analysis as widespread as it is today.

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