Skip to content ↓

Professor J. Harvey Evans Dies at 78

J. Harvey Evans, a professor emeritus of naval architecture at MIT who was widely known for his expertise in the structure of ships, died of a heart condition Monday, Nov. 23, at Mid-Coast Hospital in Brunswick, ME, at the age of 78.

Professor Evans and his wife, Edith, lived in Lexington for nearly 40 years before moving to a retirement community in Brunswick a year ago.

Professor Evans was a specialist in ship structure, computer-aided design of marine vessels, and the structure of vehicles designed to operate at great depths.

He is credited with being the first to propose a "gross-panel" model for hull girder analysis, instead of the traditional model that considered a ship's structure section by section. He also was an early advocate of reviewing hull girder stiffness criteria and for the collection of fabrication data from which tolerance standards might be derived on a statistical basis.

More recently he had been involved with the design and development of a 925-foot post-tensioned reinforced concrete ship for transporting liquified natural gas at temperatures of 260 degrees below zero. The ship has not been built.

Professor Evans once told an interviewer that a naval architect's primary concern is the seaworthiness of a ship, but he said that the term "naval architect" was something of a misnomer. "It involves much more than merely `naval' ships and is really engineering rather than architecture," he explained. "It involves math and the basic sciences and is primarily concerned with the function of the vessel as opposed to aesthetic considerations."

Professor Evans, born in Rochester, NY, in 1914, returned to the land of his parents to receive a bachelor's degree in engineering from Liverpool University in England, known the world over for its shipbuilding courses, in 1937. Drawn to the sea, he was prevented by poor eyesight from attending the Naval Academy.

For the next 10 years he was employed in the Ship Building Division of the Bethlehem Steel Company in Quincy, MA, where he supervised the development of final lines, form calculations, damage control, general design and launching analyses.

He joined the MIT faculty in 1947 as an assistant professor, became associate professor in 1952 and full professor in 1961. He retired to emeritus status in 1978, but continued to work in his profession.

Professor Evans was a member of many professional and honor societies. He was general chairman of the International Ship Structure Congress in 1976, and he served as vice president of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers from 1978 to 1980. The society awarded him its Davidson Medal in 1976 for "outstanding scientific accomplishments in ship research" and the society's US Interagency Ship Structure Committee honored him in 1984 for "exceptional service to the maritime industry."

Other awards and honors included an official commendation from Seoul National University in South Korea for services rendered in a technical and educational advisory capacity in 1957, and a citation from the Coast Guard for "having advanced the state-of-the-art in ship structural design and increased the safety and reliability of vessels of all types."

Professor Evans also served as a consultant to many engineering and naval architecture firms, including the General Dynamics Corporation's Electric Boat Division, Arthur D. Little, Inc., Litton Systems, and the governments of the United States and Canada.

He was the author of many papers on general ship and structural design, and he was the editor and principal author of the book Ship Structural Design Concepts (Cornell Maritime Press, 1975) and of the companion volume Ship Structural Design Concepts, Second Cycle (Cornell Maritime Press, 1983). He also was the senior author of Ocean Engineering Structures (MIT Press, 1969).

His hobbies included photography, music, mountain climbing and modern history. He was a trained tenor soloist.

In addition to his wife of 49 years, Edith (Price), he leaves a son, H. David Evans of Anchorage, Alaska; a daughter, Dr. Gail E.H. Evans of Ames, Iowa; and a brother, Frank H. Evans of Lynnfield.

A version of this article appeared in the December 2, 1992 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 37, Number 15).

Related Topics

More MIT News