Professor Robert H. Scanlan and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge

April 29, 2005
Publication: Metropolis and Beyond - Proceedings of the 2005 Structures Congress and the 2005 Forensic Engineering Symposium, April 20.24, 2005, New York, NY, ASCE p 2367-2378

Abstract: Among other pursuits, the late Dr. Robert H. Scanlan worked for nearly 40 years to understand the problem of bridge-deck flutter. This paper presents an overview of his work, with particular attention to the original investigative work that dealt with the most-famous bridge flutter problem of all; Galloping Gertie-the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Dr. Scanlan worked to develop the theory underlying the phenomenon, he advised and worked closely with wind-tunnel investigators to physically model deck sections, to measure the flutter coefficients so important to his equations, and he advised and guided practitioners in developing real solutions to the problem of wind-induced torsional flutter. The results of his work are reflected in the striking similarities among the geometries encountered in modern, long-span-bridge designs, from Christian Menn to Santiago Calatrava. Among other goals, this paper and its accompanying presentation hope to correct a common misconception that the failure of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge serves as an example of forced resonance.

Markets: Bridge