skip to main content

In Memoriam: Donald E. Carlson (1938 - 2010)


Linda H. Conway

Donald Earl Carlson passed away August 21, 2010, of pancreatic cancer at age 72.

Born March 8, 1938, Don grew up in the small town of Tampico, Ill., and was valedictorian of his high school class. He began in Mechanical Engineering at UIUC but switched to the new program in Engineering Mechanics in 1958, graduating with Bronze Tablet honors in the first Engineering Mechanics class (1960). After receiving a master’sdegree under Theoretical and Applied Mechanics (TAM) Prof.Marvin C. Stippes in 1961, he began doctoral studies in applied mathematics at Brown University.

At Brown, he studied under Richard T. Shield and the late Eli Sternberg. In 1964 he completed his doctoral thesis and returned to UIUC to begin a 42-year career of teaching and research in TAM, serving on three occasions as interim or acting department head (1970–1971, 1988–1989, and 1991–1992).

Professor Carlson advised hundreds of undergraduate students, and served on innumerable qualifying, preliminary, and final examinations at the graduate level. He advised or co-advised 15 doctoral students in mechanics. Carlson’s 1972 treatise on linear thermoelasticity in the Handbuch der Physik is highly regarded, and his many papers on applied mechanics are widely acclaimed. He was named an American Academy of Mechanics Fellow in 1988, and later received the AAM Lifetime Service Award (2005). Carlson was editor of the Journal of Elasticity (1982–1997), and served on the editorial board of the Journal of Thermal Stress for 22 years (1978–2000).

On the occasion of Carlson’s 65th birthday (2003), a dozen colleagues from all over the country gathered at UIUC for a research conference in his honor. He also received several departmental and college awards in recent years.

Carlson retired from UIUC in 2006. Nevertheless, he continued to write, and in 2010 completed an invited paper to appear in a special Mathematics and Mechanics of Solids volume dedicated to his longtime friend Michael M. Carroll.

A departmental scholarship has been initiated to recognize Don’s many contributions to the engineering community. Don is survived by two sons, Jeffrey Alan Carlson of Champaign and Jonathan Andrew Carlson of St. Louis, and two grandchildren in Champaign.

James W. Phillips
Professor and Associate Head
Dept. of Mechanical Science & Engineering
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign