Pioneering work in wind engineering, wind-tunnel simulations, and advancements in wind loading structure design
Dr. Jack E. Cermak was a well-respected engineer who was fondly referred to as the “Father of Wind Engineering.” His distinguished career began with early contributions at Colorado State University (CSU), including defining the tools and methods on which modern wind engineering is founded.
His fascination with wind began at an early age while watching wind-induced vortices swirling the snow. Cermak embarked on a variety of academic pursuits. From CSU, he earned a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering in 1947 and Master of Science in Hydraulic Engineering in 1949. In 1959, he received his Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering Mechanics from Cornell University and a NATO Postdoctoral Fellow at Cambridge University in 1961.
His love for learning was evident throughout his 50-year career at CSU, leading to numerous advancements in research, environmental science, and fluid mechanics. In 1959, he founded the Fluid Dynamics and Diffusion Laboratory and later established the Fluid Mechanics and Wind Engineering Program. He served as Director and Professor-in-Charge until 1985 and held the post of chairman of Engineering Science at CSU from 1962 to 1973. One of his projects included a wind-tunnel study that showed the airflows influenced by geographic features of San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. Cermak’s team investigated the cause of troublesome wind gusts wreaking havoc on the playing field and presented remedial solutions.
Over the years, Cermak continued to garner recognition and in 1986 was named the University Distinguished Professor at CSU as an influential advisor to 49 Ph.D. students. In 1997, the Department of Civil Engineering at CSU formally celebrated Cermak’s 50 Years of Education.
On top of academia, Cermak was involved in numerous organizations and received impressive recognitions throughout his career. He was elected to membership by the National Academy of Engineering in 1973 and was widely recognized for his achievements and applications to physical modeling of wind effects on buildings and dispersion of air pollutants in fluid mechanics and wind engineering. In 1974, he received the Freeman Scholar award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers for his foresightful paper, “The Application of Fluid Mechanics to Wind Engineering.”
He also served as the first president of the Wind Engineering Research Council for 10 years (1976 to 1985) before it was renamed the American Association for Wind Engineering. Cermak also co-founded Cermak Peterka Petersen, Inc., a wind energy consulting company.
Additionally, Cermak was elected an Honorary Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1990, and was awarded for his pioneering work in wind engineering, wind-tunnel simulations, and advancements in wind loading structure design.