View Full Version : Obituary for Professor R M Kenedi

Ed Chadwick
09-20-1998, 08:05 PM
Obituary for Professor R M Kenedi

Robert Kenedi was born in Hungary in 1921 and came to Glasgow in 1938 to
study civil engineering. In the midst of his studies Hungary declared war
on the United Kingdom and Robert was saved from internment only by the good
offices of Professor William Kerr of the Royal Technical College, Glasgow.
He graduated in civil engineering with first class honours from the
University of Glasgow together with the Diploma and Associateship of the
Royal College which was to become the University of Strathclyde. He then
paradoxically was involved with the British War effort assisting in studies
and cures for the 'singing propellers' of new all-welded steel cargo ships.
In his academic career he progressed from temporary research assistant in
1941 to Reader in Strength of Materials in 1956 and Professor of
Bioengineering from 1963 to 1980 when he took early retiral.

Professor Kenedi has been involved in many different areas of study and
research. He was one of the first individuals to appreciate the wide scale
use of electrical resistance strain gauges in structural and mechanical
analysis. He set up a programme to analyse structures fabricated from thin
cold rolled steel sections and took his work to the stage of Codes of
Practice and Standards for the design and construction of thin walled
building structures. His interest then developed into the field of stress
analysis and design of large spherical vessels for containment of nuclear
reactors. Following his studies in thin walled structures and in thick
walled reactor vessels he made a large lateral jump to the study of the thin
membrane containing the human body namely skin. In this he formed a
partnership with Professor Tom Gibson, Director of the Plastic Surgery Unit
at Canniesburn Hospital, Glasgow. Together these two built up an
internationally renowned programme in the biomechanical study of the
mechanics of tissues of the human body. This work led to an extension of
research into other mechanical aspects of human body function such as the
loads transmitted at joints in the body, extra-corporeal blood treatment,
continuous monitoring of the activities of daily life and rehabilitation
including prosthetics and orthotics. This work which had started as a
fringe area of interest in the department of mechanical engineering in the
Royal College of Science and Technology which was to become University of
Strathclyde resulted in the setting up of a Bioengineering Unit which with
academic and technical staff and postgraduate students for Masters and PhD
degrees reached a total of 100 at its peak. The Unit was originally funded
by the Medical Research Council and its growth continued with grants from
the Scottish Home and Health Department and the Welcome Foundation.
Accommodation for this new department was secured by finance from the
Wolfson Foundation, the University and Greater Glasgow Health Department
which allowed the construction of the Wolfson Centre on the University
Campus. The studies in prosthetics and orthotics (artificial limbs and
braces) came at a time when the Scottish Office Health Department was
particularly interested in mechanical aspects of rehabilitation such as
wheel chair provision, avoidance of pressure sores, prosthetics and
orthotics. They identified the need for professional training for
prosthetists and orthotists and Professor Kenedi under the umbrella of the
Bioengineering Unit instituted courses first at diploma then at degree level
which lead to the formation as a University Department of The National
Centre for Training and Education in Prosthetics and Orthotics. He had
previously set up the Department of Mechanics of Materials in the Department
of Mechanical Engineering at the Royal College.

Professor Kenedi took early retiral from the University in 1980 to take up a
post as Associate Director of the Hong Kong Polytechnic with special
responsibility for implementation of degree level courses in civil,
mechanical, electrical and production engineering. On his return from Hong
Kong Professor Kenedi was appointed to the part time post of Advisor on
External Relations to the Office of the Principal of University of
Strathclyde, consolidating and enhancing the University's contacts with
educational institutions worldwide and the University's Public Relations
Directorate and Alumni Affairs Office. This commitment involved also
institution of the 'Learning in Later Life' programme which became the
Senior Studies Institute of the University in 1991. Following on the work
undertaken in Hong Kong the Jockey Club financed a new department in the
Polytechnic - The Jockey Club Rehabilitation Centre founded on Professor
Kenedi's earlier work.

Professor Kenedi's list of distinctions and prizes is extensive and includes
Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Catedratico Honorario of the
National University of Engineering Lima, Peru, Commonwealth Visiting
Professorship to the Australian Federal Government, Foreign Associate of the
National Academy of Engineering, USA and the Prestigious HR Lissner award of
the American Society of Mechanical Engineers as well as Honorary Advisory
Fellowship to the World Federation of Occupational Therapists. He took
particular pleasure in the award from the University of Strathclyde of the
Honorary Degree of Doctor of the University in 1991.

Despite or more likely because of his education in Hungary Professor Kenedi
had a superb command of the English Language, using tenses of verbs now
heard only in Latin classes at school. Throughout his undergraduate career
your writer benefited from attending lectures from Professor Kenedi. He had
a superb dynamism in board work and clarity of expression in his notes and
verbal presentation. This appeared to be effortless but was the result of
intense study and hard work as all who were junior to him in his departments
will testify. He showed a close interest in the lives of all his students
and most especially those from overseas, whose problems he knew only too

Professor Kenedi is survived by his wife Jean (nee Johnstone) and through
her his step son and step daughter through whom he is grandfather to 3
teenage boys.

Professor John P Paul

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