Professor Tim Ibell
I am very happy to provide a supporting statement as part of the nomination for Dr David Brohn to receive State-Honours recognition for his extraordinary contributions to structural safety.
Buildings and bridges are shaped as they are, and indeed they stand up robustly, because of the deep technical skill of the structural engineering profession. The importance of embedding this skill cannot be over-stated, but usually only forms part of public understanding when that rarest of event, structural collapse, occurs. As an example, when the Morandi Bridge collapsed in Italy in 2018, it was structural engineers who were asked what could possibly have gone wrong. The reality is that very few interviewers ask what could possibly have gone right in the other structures which stay standing, which create the very basis of our civilisation.
Dr David Brohn represents exactly the injection of such a ‘doing things right’ skill in our structural engineers across the UK in helping to keep our projects safe.
David had the vision, many decades ago, to test newly-qualified structural-engineering graduates using the ‘Brohn Test’, in an attempt to gauge real understanding of structural behaviour. This still continues to this day. When the results began to concern David, he developed ideas to target deficiencies through bespoke approaches which rely on intuition as much as on mathematics, and to extend the availability of his approach via books, workshops and online courses.
Anyone who has engaged with David’s materials will testify that they transform one’s understanding of structural behaviour. This is not an exaggeration. David has done as much to protect our society from catastrophe as anyone I can think of. He has instilled real skill into our structural engineers, he has done this over decades, he has done this altruistically, and he has done this with enormous success. When I was President of the Institution of Structural Engineers in 2015, I awarded David the President’s Medal for his outstanding services to keeping our structural designs safe. This was only the second time in the 112-year history of the Institution that this medal has been awarded. To say it is a special honour is to underplay its extraordinary significance.
Indirectly, David has saved lives and has ensured that structures may be designed with total confidence. This is quite a legacy, and David deserves due recognition for his contributions in the form of State Honours. His nomination carries my fullest support.
Professor Tim Ibell FREng CEng FIStructE FICE FHEA
University of Bath