Bill Harvey

It is with great sadness that the British Group of IABSE announces the death of Professor Bill Harvey, a giant of the civil and structural engineering profession. Bill had been suffering from pancreatic cancer and died peacefully on Saturday 15th October.

Bill was a very well known expert in masonry bridge design and assessment, but his involvement in civil and structural engineering extended far beyond that specific area of expertise. He was a long-standing member of IABSE (the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering) and a key member of the British Group Executive Committee for many years.

Bill obtained his PhD from the University of Leeds in 1971 and began his professional career with the Leeds City Engineer. Moving on to Freeman Fox and Partners he worked on the Humber Bridge from where his love of bridges of all types grew. His academic career began with an appointment to the University of Dundee in 1977 becoming Head of Department in 1990. He joined the Wolfson Bridge Research Unit in 1981 where his extraordinary work on masonry arch bridges began to take off. Circumstances took him south to the University of Exeter in 1995, and to establishing Bill Harvey Associates in 1999, where he worked as a Director almost right up to the end.

Bill was an extraordinary man in so many wonderful ways, a gentlemen, and an exceptional engineer. He has been an inspiration and an example to so many who encountered him, and his contribution to the advancement of the science and technology of structural engineering has been enormous. He was never afraid to rustle a few feathers in the pursuit of proper engineering outcomes, and many of his friends and colleagues can recall how he expressed his frustration at errors and examples of poor engineering that he encountered regularly. His prolific twitter feed was always a joy to read as well as being very informative. His “bridge of the month” was a firm favourite among his many followers, and he was writing them right up to a few weeks before he died.

Bill faced death with an extraordinary openness, candour and honesty, so many people knew of his circumstances through Twitter and other media. The world of engineering is now without one of its greatest champions, but his legacy lives on in countless students, colleagues and friends who have learnt from his expertise and experience. His work on, and keen interest in bridges and other structures has been noteworthy, and IABSE has benefited from his wise words and expert counsel on a variety of topics on very many occasions.

He will be sorely missed.

Ian Firth

Chairman, British Group of IABSE