2002 Alfred E. Alquist Medal Winner:
Wilfred D. Iwan

Professor Wilfred (Bill) D. Iwan’s outstanding career has spanned the military, business and academia. His 38 years at the California Institute of Technology have been marked by a long list of innovations and creations that cover the field of seismic engineering and the application of its theoretical components to life safety in structural design.  These efforts and his extensive volunteer services have contributed significantly to the seismic safety of California and its citizens. 

Dr. Iwan’s list of research achievements include: the development of methods to represent complex nonlinear structures with simpler linear systems, the development of practical methods for earthquake-resistant design, and the development of simplified methods for the analysis of seismic isolation systems for critical equipment.  In 1978 he organized an international workshop that led to the worldwide deployment of strong-motion earthquake measurement arrays, resulting eventually in a greatly expanded database of earthquake motions for use in research and earthquake-resistant design. In 1979 he proposed an earthquake early warning system for urban regions, and in 1980 he led a team that introduced modern strong-motion earthquake recording instrumentation into China, resulting in the first instrumentally based seismic zoning in that country.

Dr. Iwan was also a leader in the creation of the California Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering (CUREe), and he has mentored more than 30 doctoral students who are now in leadership positions in business and educational institutions worldwide.

During his 13 years on the California Seismic Safety Commission, Dr. Iwan contributed his considerable talents to the State of California and its residents. He chaired the commission twice, including the challenging period following the 1994 Northridge earthquake, with its related hearings and reports. During his tenure the Commission became a recognized leader in seismic safety advocacy, with publications and programs that were used throughout the world. Through his personal integrity and professional skills he consistently placed intellectual honesty ahead of political considerations. As a result of his leadership the Commission’s reports provided honest and insightful information that has helped to create a better understanding of the impacts of urban earthquakes, and the economic steps that can be taken to enhance life safety.

In awarding Dr. Iwan the California Earthquake Safety Foundations’ Alquist Medal we join others in recognizing Dr. Iwan’s outstanding contributions to his field of research, to the State of California , and to the earthquake-prone areas of the world.

Dr. Iwan is also the holder of the Newmark Medal of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and has been elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering.