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Biographical Information

Name: Joseph Melan
Other name(s): Josef Melan
Born on 18 November 1853 in , Austria, Europe
Deceased on 6 February 1941 in , Czechia, Europe
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Short biography of Joseph Melan

Josef Melan studied civil engineering at Vienna TH from 1869 to 1874 and thereafter was assistant to Emil Winkler at the chair of railway engineering and bridge-building. He wrote his habilitation thesis entitled Theorie des Brücken- und Eisenbahnbaues at the same university in 1880 and remained on the teaching staff there until 1886. It was during this period that he worked in the design offices of the Ignaz Gridl bridge-building company and for the building contractor Gaertner – both based in Vienna. He was appointed associate professor of structural mechanics and graphical statics at Brünn TH in 1886, where he was promoted to full professor at the same chair in 1890 before switching to the chair of bridge-building in 1895. He was head of the chair of bridge-building at the German TH in Prague from 1902 until his transfer to emeritus status in 1923. Josef Melan was the outstanding authority on the theory and practice of bridge-building in Austria during the transition from the discipline-formation period to the consolidation period of structural theory. The Melan System, which links steel and concrete construction, won a significant market-share in European and American bridge-building as early as the 1890s and was awarded a gold medal at the World Exposition in Paris in 1900. Melan had published his work on concrete arches in conjunction with iron arches in 1893. However, it was not only in composite construction, but also in the field of steel bridge building that Melan set standards. In 1888 he was the first person to quantify the effects of second-order theory. His books on bridges enjoyed international popularity. For example, in 1913 the American bridge-builder Steinman translated Melan’s theory of arch and suspension bridges [Melan, 1913]. Melan also verified the calculations for the Williams Bridge on behalf of the New York Bridge-Building Department and the Hellgate Bridge for the New York-based Lindenthal bridge design office. His influence on the theory and practice of large bridges in the USA during the first two decades of the 20th century is without precedent.

Main contributions to structural analysis

  • Beitrag zur Berechnung statisch unbestimmter Stabsysteme [1884];
  • Theorie der eisernen Bogenbrücken und der Hängebrücken [1888/2];
  • Theorie des Gewölbes und des Eisenbetongewölbes im besonderen [1908];
  • Der Brückenbau. Nach Vorträgen, gehalten an der deutschen Technischen Hochschule in Prag [1910, 1911, 1917];
  • Theory of Arches and Suspension Bridges [1913];
  • Plain and reinforced concrete arches [1915]

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. 749


  1. Melan, Joseph (1890): Die Donaubrücke bei Cernavoda. In: Österreichische Ingenieur- Und Architekten-Zeitschrift ( 1890), pp. 32-37.
  2. Melan, Joseph / Gesteschi, Theodor (1932): Handbuch für Eisenbetonbau [11. Band]. Bogenbrücken. 4th edition, Berlin (Germany).

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