History of the Institute of General Mechanics

The Chair of Mechanics and present-day Institute of General Mechanics have existed since the founding of the university in 1870.

August Ritter

The first holder of the chair was August Ritter (1826 - 1908), who had served as an instructor at the Polytechnical School in Hannover since 1856. When the university in Aachen opened in October 1870, he started as a chaired professor in engineering mechanics and mechanics. The eponymous Ritter method of cut sections in the theory of trusses is well-known. His research interests included many other physical areas such as the adiabatic theory of changes of state. Ritter held the Chair of Mechanics, as it was then known, until 1899.

Arnold Sommerfeld

His successor in 1900 was Arnold Sommerfeld (1868 - 1951), who came to Aachen from the Mining College of Clausthal. In 1906, Sommerfeld left for the University of Munich to take up the Chair of Theoretical Physics.

Hans Reissner

Between 1906 and 1912, Hans Reißner (1874 - 1967) held the Chair of Mechanics. Reissner dealt with the problems of aeronautics with scientific methods. The formation of the Institute of Aerodynamics, built between 1912 and 1914, was due to his suggestion. In 1912, Reissner left for a post at the Technical University of Berlin.

Theodore von Kármán

Theodor von Kármán (1881 - 1963) assumed both the Chair of Mechanics and Chair of Aerodynamics as well as the leadership of the Institute of Aerodynamics in 1913. Through his work, especially in the area of fluid mechanics, von Kármán created a worldwide reputation for himself. In addition to his activities in Aachen, in 1930, he took over the direction of the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. In 1931, von Kármán pointed out the increasing political dangers in Germany. This caused the German Transport Ministry to fear that he would probably leave the country. On January 27, 1934 von Kármán was therefore asked by the Prussian Ministry of Education to ultimately declare his intention to remain in Germany. On February 17, he thereupon tendered his resignation.

Wilhelm Müller

From 1934 to 1939 Wilhelm Müller (1880 - 1968) held the Chair of Mechanics. He worked chiefly on the theory of viscous fluids and the mechanics of flight. Müller left for a post at the University of Munich in 1939.


Fritz Schultz-Grunow

Fritz Schultz-Grunow (1906 - 1987), became the next incumbent of the Chair, now named the Chair and Institute of Mechanics. As a result of the effects of the Second World War, the library and workshop were relocated to Raeren, Belgium, and instruction was stopped.
Though the transferred books and machines were lost in Raeren, instruction was restarted at the end of July 1946. In 1950, the old workshop building was readied for use again, and the "Römerstraße Bunker" laboratory was completed in 1956. In the following years, two additional chairs of mechanics at the technical university in Aachen were established. The first, the Chair and Institute of Technical Mechanics began in 1957, whose holders included Herbert Wagner (1957), Georg Rieder (1965), and Norbert Peters (1987). The second, the Chair of Mechanics was founded in 1964 and held by Carl Heinz until 1982. In 1964, the institute moved from the main bulding to the newly-opened Building for General Sciences at Templergraben 64. The Chair was renamed for a final time in 1968 and has been known since then as the Chair and Institute of General Mechanics.
Schultz-Grunow led the institute until his retirement in 1975. The wide diversity of his work can be seen in the over fifty dissertations completed under his direction. They include topics from the theory of elasticity, rheology, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, and gas dynamics. Schultz-Grunow was actively involved in the development of shock wave tubes and the associated techniques of short-time measurements. In 1971, as a result of the conditions of a new professorial appointment, the "Römerstraße Bunker" lab was replaced by the present Shock Wave Laboratory, which became part of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering in 1972.

Gerhard Adomeit

Gerhard Adomeit was the incumbent of the Chair of General Mechanics from 1975 until 1995. The research emphasis during this time was principally in gas dynamics, especially combustion processes.


Dieter Weichert

Dieter Weichert led the institute from 1995 through 2013. The new research topics were in the fields of solid and structural mechanics. Specific emphases were nonlinear behavior and failure caused by inelastic effects.
The Chair and Institute of General Mechanics originally belonged to the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences (earlier the Faculty of General Sciences). The transfer to the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering occurred at the beginning of 1989.
Today, the institute has a permanent staff of 39, including 17 scientific assistants and 22 employees and apprentices in the administrative division, construction office, and electrical and mechanical workshops. In addition, approximately 120 student assistants are engaged to help with teaching and research.


Bernd Markert

Bernd Markert holds a diploma degree (Dipl.-Ing.) in Civil Engineering from the University of Stuttgart. He finished his PhD (Dr.-Ing.) under the supervision of Professor Wolfgang Ehlers at the Institute of Applied Mechanics (CE) at the University of Stuttgart in 2005. At this institute, he worked as a research fellow and senior lecturer in Mechanics. In 2011, he completed his habilitation and received the Facultas Docendi and Venia Legendi for Mechanics. He became supernumerary professor (apl. Prof.) at the University of Stuttgart in 2013.

In August 2013, Bernd Markert was appointed full professor at the RWTH Aachen University and Director of the Institute of General Mechanics in the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. His present research focuses on the theory and numerics of general coupled problems, computational and experimental biomechanics and structural mechanics, as well as extended continuum methods, such as phase-field models.

Partially extracted from the informational brochure of the Institute of General Mechanics
Publisher: Institute of General Mechanics,  Prof. Dr.-Ing. G. Adomeit