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German structural engineer

Biographical Information

Name: Carl Culmann
Full name: Carl Wilhelm Culmann
Other name(s): Karl Culmann
Born on 9 July 1821 in , Südliche Weinstraße, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, Europe
Deceased on 9 December 1881 in , Zurich, Switzerland, Europe

Studies at the Polytechnikum Karlsruhe


in the service of the state of Bavaria

1849 - 1850

Voyage to England and North America


First professor of engineering science at the ETH Zurich


First volume of "Graphische Statik" (graphic statics), later completed by his student Wihelm Ritter

Short biography of Carl Culmann

After attending Wissembourg Collège (1835–36) he moved to Metz, where his uncle, Friedrich Jakob Culmann (1787–1849), was a professor at the Artillery School; this awakened in him an interest in a career in engineering. From 1838 to 1841 he studied at Karlsruhe Polytechnic and was subsequently employed on public building works by Bavarian State Railways until 1855. With the help of his superior, Friedrich August von Pauli (1802–83), Culmann spent the years 1849–51 abroad in England, Ireland and the USA; his experiences were published in two travelogues which contain the theory of frameworks. After leaving Bavarian State Railways, he became full professor of engineering sciences at Zurich ETH, where he gave lectures on graphical statics from 1860 onwards; he gained his doctorate there in 1880. Culmann placed graphical statics on a sound footing and made a great contribution to the establishment phase of structural theory. Although his reasoning behind graphical statics was in the end rendered obsolete by projective geometry, together with Mohr he was the greatest structural engineer of the 19th century in the German-speaking world.

Main contributions to structural analysis:

Source: Kurrer, Karl-Eugen The History of the Theory of Structures, Wilhelm Ernst & Sohn Verlag für Architektur und technische Wissenschaften GmbH, Berlin (Deutschland), ISBN 3-433-01838-3, 2008; p. 724


  1. Culmann, Carl (Karl) (1851): Der Bau der hölzernen Brücken in den Vereinigten Staaten von Nordamerika. Allgemeine Bauzeitung, Verlag von L. Försters artistischer Anstalt, Vienna (Austria).

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