David Billington 5 Replies David Billington, the Gordon Y.S. Wu Professor of Engineering, Emeritus, died March 25, 2018
I was one of the “civilians” in Professor Billington’s Structures in the Urban Environment class. As a politics major, I loved the lectures but hated the labs which involved math and engineering projects I was ill-equipped to solve. When it came time a year later to write my senior thesis, I met with Professor Billington. I explained I didn’t know what to write about but I thought he was a fantastic professor so he might be able to help. I will never forget his response, “Well, a bridge is a very political thing!” And so we embarked on my senior thesis on Spiro Agnew and bridge design in Maryland. I always think of Professor Billington when I cross a suspension bridge and I always will. He and his lectures stay with me. My condolences to Professor Billington’s family and colleagues. He was a special man.
I just learned of Prof. Billington’s passing. He was on my dissertation committee at Princeton, where I got my Ph.D. in History in 1975. I never realized until much later how unusual it was an Engineering professor to be on a humanities committee like mine—on technological utopianism in American culture. We kept in touch for a while but, alas, not for long. But I recall his encouragement and support as I gradually moved from mainstream American history to the history of technology.
He was an inspiring teacher, a great scholar, and a model citizen of Princeton.
Does anyone know why he was in Los Angeles? Did he retire there?
As my advisor at Princeton, David P. Billington profoundly changed the way I thought about engineering. I owe him a debt of gratitude that I can never repay. Thank you sir!
I do not believe David ever determined why two large pretensioned concrete support beams in the Pier 40 construction (NYC) cracked at mid-span from bottom to the top flange.