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Finite element method

key to computer simulations Wales,

Blue and green computer image of a car crashing into an obstacle.
A visualisation of an asymmetrical collision analysis using the finite element method. Wikimedia, creative commons.

This powerful method for dividing a complicated engineering problem into manageable pieces has revolutionised design and analysis.

Olek Zienkiewicz (1921-2009) is internationally recognised as one of the leading developers of the finite element method, which allows engineers to create virtual models of complicated and challenging structures on a computer, enabling them to explore structures’ performance with the minimum of experimental testing. Its first use by Zienkiewicz was in 1963 for the stress analysis of the Clywedog Dam in Wales. It continues to present new applications, most recently in the areas of biomedical engineering and life sciences.

Zienkiewicz’s book The Finite Element Method, published in 1968 while he was at Swansea University, continues to be the definitive reference book on this subject and earned him the title ‘father of the finite element method’. Today computer simulations have become an indispensable part of the design process.

Science Museum

Computing, Engineering, Mathematics,
Swansea University
Key Individuals
Olek Zienkiewicz,