Joseph Strauss (engineer)

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San Francisco's Joseph Strauss Memorial, in March 2010. Joseph Strauss Memorial.jpg
San Francisco's Joseph Strauss Memorial, in March 2010.

Joseph Baermann Strauss (January 9, 1870 May 16, 1938) was an American structural engineer German descent, who revolutionized the design of bascule bridges. He was the chief engineer of the Golden Gate Bridge, a suspension bridge.

Structural engineers analyze, design, plan, and research structural components and structural systems to achieve design goals and ensure the safety and comfort of users or occupants. Their work takes account mainly of safety, technical, economic and environmental concerns, but they may also consider aesthetic and social factors.

Bascule bridge moveable bridge using a counterweight to balance a span through its upward swing to let boats move underneath

A bascule bridge is a moveable bridge with a counterweight that continuously balances a span, or "leaf", throughout its upward swing to provide clearance for boat traffic. It may be single- or double-leafed.

Golden Gate Bridge suspension bridge on the San Francisco Bay

The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate, the one-mile-wide (1.6 km) strait connecting San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The structure links the American city of San Francisco, California – the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula – to Marin County, carrying both U.S. Route 101 and California State Route 1 across the strait. The bridge is one of the most internationally recognized symbols of San Francisco, California, and the United States. It has been declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.


Life, beginnings and death

He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, to an artistic family of Jewish German ancestry, having a mother who was a pianist and a father, Raphael Strauss, who was a writer and painter. [1] His pianist mother had an unfortunate accident which ultimately ended her concert career. He graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 1892. He served as both class poet and president, and is a brother of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. Strauss graduated with a degree in civil engineering.

Germans citizens or native-born people of Germany; or people of descent to the ethnic and ethnolinguistic group associated with the German language

Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe, who share a common German ancestry, culture and history. German is the shared mother tongue of a substantial majority of ethnic Germans.

University of Cincinnati public research university in Cincinnati, Ohio

The University of Cincinnati is a public research university in Cincinnati, Ohio. Founded in 1819 as Cincinnati College, it is the oldest institution of higher education in Cincinnati and has an annual enrollment of over 44,000 students, making it the second largest university in Ohio. It is part of the University System of Ohio.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon North American collegiate fraternity

Sigma Alpha Epsilon (ΣΑΕ), commonly known as SAE, is a North American Greek-letter social college fraternity. It was founded at the University of Alabama on March 9, 1856. Of all existing national social fraternities today, Sigma Alpha Epsilon is the only one founded in the Antebellum South. Its national headquarters, the Levere Memorial Temple, was established on the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, in 1929. The fraternity's mission statement is "To promote the highest standards of friendship, scholarship and service for our members based upon the ideals set forth by our Founders and as specifically enunciated in our creed."

Joseph Strauss had many hobbies. One of these included poetry. After completion of the Golden Gate Bridge he returned to his passion of poetry and wrote his most recognizable poem "The Mighty Task is Done". He also wrote "The Redwoods", and his "Sequoia" can still be purchased by tourists visiting the California redwoods.

He died in Los Angeles, California, just one year after the Golden Gate's completion. His statue can be seen on the San Francisco side of the bridge. He is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale) in The Great Mausoleum, Sanctuary of Meditation, Crypt 6281. [2]

Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale) cemetery in Glendale, California, United States

Forest Lawn Memorial Park is a privately owned cemetery in Glendale, California, US. It is the original and current flagship location of Forest Lawn Memorial-Parks & Mortuaries, a chain of six cemeteries and four additional mortuaries in Southern California.

Early career and the bascule bridge

Strauss was hospitalized while in college and his hospital room overlooked the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge. This sparked his interest in bridges. Upon graduating from the University of Cincinnati, Strauss worked at the Office of Ralph Modjeski, a firm which specialized in building bridges. At that time, bascule bridges were built with expensive iron counterweights. He proposed using cheaper concrete counterweights in place of iron. When his ideas were rejected, he left the firm and started his own firm, the Strauss Bascule Bridge Company of Chicago, where he revolutionized the design of bascule bridges. [3] [4] [5]

John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge Suspension bridge spanning the Ohio river at Cincinnati opened in 1866

The John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, originally known as the Cincinnati-Covington Bridge spans the Ohio River between Cincinnati, Ohio and Covington, Kentucky. When opened on December 1, 1866, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world at 1,057 feet (322 m) main span. Pedestrians use the bridge to get between the sports venues in Cincinnati and the hotels, bars, restaurants, and parking lots in Northern Kentucky. The bar and restaurant district at the foot of the bridge on the Kentucky side is known as Roebling Point.

Ralph Modjeski United States civil engineer

Ralph Modjeski was a Polish civil engineer who achieved prominence as a pre-eminent bridge designer in the United States.

Bridge designs

Strauss was the designer of the Burnside Bridge (1926) in Portland, Oregon and the Lewis and Clark Bridge (1930) over the Columbia River between Longview, Washington, and Rainier, Oregon. Strauss also worked with the Dominion Bridge Company in building the Cherry Street Strauss Trunnion Bascule Bridge in Toronto, Ontario. in 1912 he designed the HB&T Railway bascule bridge over Buffalo Bayou in Houston, Texas (now hidden under an Interstate 69 bridge in the shadow of downtown Houston). His design was also exported to Norway where Skansen Bridge is still in daily use.

Burnside Bridge bridge in Portland, Oregon, USA

The Burnside Bridge is a 1926-built bascule bridge that spans the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon, United States, carrying Burnside Street. It is the second bridge at the same site to carry that name. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in November 2012.

Portland, Oregon City in Oregon, United States

Portland is the largest and most populous city in the U.S. state of Oregon and the seat of Multnomah County. It is a major port in the Willamette Valley region of the Pacific Northwest, at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. As of 2017, Portland had an estimated population of 647,805, making it the 26th-largest city in the United States, and the second-most populous in the Pacific Northwest. Approximately 2.4 million people live in the Portland metropolitan statistical area (MSA), making it the 25th most populous MSA in the United States. Its Combined Statistical Area (CSA) ranks 18th-largest with a population of around 3.2 million. Approximately 60% of Oregon's population resides within the Portland metropolitan area.

Lewis and Clark Bridge (Columbia River) place in Washington listed on National Register of Historic Places

The Lewis and Clark Bridge is a cantilever bridge that spans the Columbia River between Longview, Washington and Rainier, Oregon. At the time of completion, it had the longest cantilever span in the United States.

Golden Gate Bridge

As Chief engineer of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, Strauss overcame many problems. He had to find funding and support for the bridge from the citizens and the U.S. military. There were also innovations in the way the bridge was constructed. It had to span one of the greatest distances ever spanned, reach heights that hadn't been seen in a bridge, and hold up to the forces of the ocean. He placed a brick from the demolished McMicken Hall at his alma mater, the University of Cincinnati, in the south anchorage before the concrete was poured.

Strauss was concerned with the safety of his workers. He required that a net be installed beneath the Golden Gate Bridge during construction. This net saved a total of 19 lives. [6]

In actuality, Charles Alton Ellis was chiefly responsible for the structural design of the Golden Gate Bridge. Because of a dispute with Strauss, however, Ellis was not recognized for his work when the bridge opened in 1937. [7] A plaque honoring Ellis is set to appear in 2012 for the first time. [8]

Other works

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  1. "Two of San Francisco's best-known landmarks were built by Germans: Joseph Strauss designed the 1937 Golden Gate Bridge, and Bernard Maybeck, son of a German immigrant, designed the Palace of Fine Arts," according to "10 great places to toast German heritage". USA Today. October 5, 2006. Retrieved 2012-03-17.
  2. "Joseph Baermann Strauss (1870 - 1938) - Find A Grave Memorial". Retrieved 2015-12-24.
  3. Hittleman, Jerry; Smith Jr., Larry (January 1995). "Henry Ford Bridge (Badger Avenue Bridge) Written Historical and Descriptive Data" (PDF). Historic American Engineering Record. National Park Service. pp. 6–7. Retrieved May 18, 2012.[ permanent dead link ]
  5. "Eighth Street Bridge over Passaic River" (PDF). Historic Bridge Survey (1991-1994). New Jersey Department of Transportation. 2001. Retrieved 2015-05-21. J. B. Strauss (1870-1938) invented the pivoting counterweight linkage used at the Eighth Street bridge, and he applied for a patent in 1905, the same year the first bridge of this type was built in Cleveland. That year he also founded the Strauss Bascule and Concrete Bridge Company in Chicago to market his bridge designs. Strauss went on to become the most widely respected moveable-span bridge engineer of the pre-World War II era. Strauss reasoned that if, unlike the traditional trunnion bridge, which operates like a seesaw and moves in a vertical plane on a horizontal steel pivot, the entire weight of the counterweight could be concentrated at the end (tail) of the moveable leaf, it would then be possible to use a lighter counterweight. Such an arrangement also meant a shorter tail end to the leaf, thus saving on materials that the "counterweight could be made in such shape that no pit is required to receive it when the leaf is in the upright position'" (Waddell, p. 704). The patented linkage, or arms, ensures that the counterweight will always move in a series of parallel positions and thus maintain the position of the weight at the tail end of the leaf.
  6. "Maintenance and Operations". Golden Gate Bridge Research Library. Retrieved 2012-03-17.
  7. "Biography: Charles Ellis". The American Experience, PBS. Retrieved 2012-03-17.
  8. Robert Reid. "15 things you didn't know about the Golden Gate Bridge". Lonely planet. Retrieved 2012-11-30.

Further reading