• DE
  • EN
  • FR
  • International Database and Gallery of Structures


Biographical Information

Name: Ernst Melan
Born on 16 November 1890 in , South Moravian Region, Czechia, Europe
Deceased on 10 December 1963 in , Austria, Europe
Son of
Place(s) of activity:

Short biography of Ernst Melan

Ernst Melan was the son of Joseph Melan and spent his youth in Prague, where he studied at the German Technical University and gained his doctorate in 1917 with a work on the torsion of bodies of revolution. Afterwards, he turned to practical engineering at k. k. Statthalterei in Graz, moved to Waagner Biró AG, then took up a post as a production engineer in the strength of materials laboratory at Berlin-Charlottenburg TH and by 1921 had become a departmental head at Waagner Biró AG. He wrote his habilitation thesis during these years and was appointed to the chair of elastic theory at Vienna TH. His nomination as associate professor for theory of structures and strength of materials at the German Technical University in Prague followed in 1923, and two years after that he was appointed to the chair of theory of structures at Vienna TH, to which steel and timber engineering were added in 1939. Ernst Melan remained at Vienna TH as a highly regarded teacher and researcher until 1962. The monograph Die gewöhnlichen und partiellen Differenzengleichungen der Baustatik, written together Friedrich Bleich, appeared in 1927 [Bleich & Melan, 1927], and this became a standard work for numerical methods in higher theory of structures during the invention phase of structural theory (1925–50). In the analysis of member buckling, he points out the possibility of using integral equations for an approximate determination of eigenvalues. Ernst Melan was an outstanding figure in the “paradigm articulation” (Kuhn) from elastic to plastic theory. This was already apparent in his analysis of a trussed framework with one degree of static indeterminacy using the ideal-elastic and the ideal-plastic material law [Melan, 1932]. In his most important publication in the field of plastic theory, he generalises the shake-down principle formulated by Hans Heinrich Bleich in 1932 [Melan, 1938]. Like his father, Ernst Melan was involved with bridges, as can be seen from his book entitled Die genaue Berechnung von Trägerrosten, co-written with Robert Schindler [Melan & Schindler, 1942], but also in the publication of the two-volume work on bridge-building [Melan, 1948 & 1950]. Together with Heinz Parkus (1909–82), Ernst Melan wrote the first comprehensive theoretical presentation on thermal stresses due to stationary temperature fields [Melan & Parkus, 1953]. His services to science were acknowledged by membership of the Austrian and Polish Academies of Science, among other honours.

Main contributions to structural analysis

  • Zur Bestimmung des Sicherheitsgrades einfach statisch unbestimmter Fachwerke [1932];
  • Die gewöhnlichen und partiellen Differenzengleichungen der Baustatik [1927];
  • Zur Plastizität des räumlichen Kontinuums [1938];
  • Die genaue Berechnung von Trägerrosten [1942];
  • Einführung in die Statik [1942];
  • Einführung in die Festigkeitslehre für Studierende des Bauwesens [1947];
  • Der Brückenbau [1948 & 1950/1];
  • Einführung in die Baustatik [1950/2];
  • Wärmespannungen infolge stationärer Temperaturfelder [1953]

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; pp. 748-749


  1. Melan, Ernst (1949): Ein Näherungsverfahren zur Berechnung der Stützenmomente des Durchlaufträgers. In: Schweizerische Bauzeitung (1947-1978), v. 67, n. 30 (23 July 1949).


  2. Melan, Ernst (1951): Spannungen in Decken mit Strahlungsheizung. In: IABSE Publications, v. 11 ( 1951).


Relevant Publications

  • About this
    data sheet
  • Person-ID
  • Published on:
  • Last updated on: