UCSB Engineering

September 22, 2009

Materials pioneer Anthony Evans dies at 66

“A giant in the field…”

Santa Barbara, California, September 22, 2009— Anthony Evans, 66, the founding chair of UC Santa Barbara’s top-ranked Materials Department, died Sept. 9 at home with his family, following a year-long battle with cancer, according to an announcement from the Materials Department.

Evans was an expert on the properties and behavior of advanced structural materials, and one of the most cited authors in his field, with more than 540 papers to his name. He pioneered a new understanding of the structure of ceramic-matrix composites and of the mechanics of toughening brittle materials—work that had significant applications in aerospace and automotive design.

Evans’ commitment to collaboration beyond the boundaries of traditional academic disciplines helped establish the rich interdisciplinary culture that today is a hallmark of UC Santa Barbara. He is remembered by colleagues as a groundbreaking and congenial researcher, and a dedicated and inspiring teacher and mentor.

“Tony's brilliance, enthusiasm, and unquenchable intellectual curiosity were an inspiration to us all,” UC Santa Barbara Chancellor Henry T. Yang said. “We feel deeply privileged to have known him as our colleague and friend.”

Evans was the Alcoa Professor of Materials and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara, director of the university’s Center for Multifunctional Materials and Structures, and past director of its High Performance Composites Center.

“He made enormous contributions to our university and to the world community,” Yang stated.Tony Evans in his lab

In an editorial in the International Journal of Materials Research celebrating Evans’ 65th birthday, longtime friend Arthur Heuer, a professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Case Western Reserve University, lauded Evans as “a materials phenomenon,” describing him as “the most recognized and most highly cited materials scientist of his or any other generation.”

Heuer credited Evans’ standing to “his incredible ability to focus, his ‘nose’ for important problems to work on, and his generosity in collaborative research.

“The number of his students and post-docs who have gone on to significant academic, industrial, and governmental careers,” Heuer added, “ensure that his influence will be of long duration.”

Evans received numerous awards and honors for his research and for public service, including the 2005 ASM International Gold Medal, the 2003 American Society of Mechanical Engineers Nadai Medal, and the 2002 Humboldt Research Award for Senior U.S. Scientists. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Society, and the Royal Academy of Engineering. He served as vice president of the American Ceramic Society, and as chair of the Defense Sciences Research Council.

Born in Porthcawl, Wales in 1942, Evans followed, by his own account in a 1996 interview with ScienceWatch, "a rather circuitous career path." He did both his undergraduate and doctoral work at Imperial College in London, obtaining his Ph.D. in metallurgy in 1967. He was a project leader at the UK’s prestigious Harwell Laboratory, and then moved to the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology) in the US before moving on to the Rockwell International Science Center, where he originated a ceramics program—motivated, he said, "…by the space shuttle tile program."

In 1978, he returned to academia in to the materials science and mineral engineering department at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1985 he left Berkeley for UC Santa Barbara to become founding chair of the materials department and director of the High Performance Composites Center. He left UCSB for Harvard University in 1994, then moved to Princeton University before returning to UCSB in 2002.

According to the Materials Department, a memorial service will be held in October; details are still being finalized.

Evans is survived by his wife, Trisha, and their three daughters.


About the College of Engineering at UC Santa Barbara

The College of Engineering at UC Santa Barbara is a global leader in bioengineering, chemical and computational engineering, materials science, nanotechnology, and physics. UCSB boasts five Nobel Laureates (four in sciences and engineering) and one winner of the prestigious international Millennium Technology Prize. Our students, faculty, and staff thrive in a uniquely-successful interdisciplinary and entrepreneurial culture. Our professors’ research is among the most cited by their peers, evidence of the significance and relevance of their work.    

Related Links

Materials Department news story

Mechanical Engineering Department faculty page

College of Engineering faculty profile

Tony Evans Rememberance event, October 24, 2009

Media Contact

Tony Rairden
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