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William Godden


William George Godden

Professor of Civil Engineering, Emeritus

UC Berkeley



William (Bill) George Godden, Professor of Civil Engineering, Emeritus, died April 6, 2012 in Bellingham, Washington; he was 88.


One of six children, Bill was born on July 27, 1923 in Bangor, Northern Ireland. As a youth he developed an interest in music (piano), art, and photography which he maintained throughout his life. Upon graduating in civil engineering from Queen’s University, Belfast in 1943, as a junior officer in the British Army he joined a team of engineers in the Experiment Bridging Establishment of The British Ministry of Defense (e.g., development of the Bailey Bridge used extensively by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as well as the British Army). During the period 1943-45 he designed military bridging for the advancement of the Allied Armies during World War II in North Africa and Europe (including the first Rhine crossing in March 1945). Following his military service, he returned to Queens University receiving a M.Sc. degree in 1945 and his Ph.D. degree in 1952. He served on the faculty of Civil Engineering, Queen’s University from 1947 to 1964 advancing from lecturer to reader. In 1954-55, he served as a research associate in the Civil Engineering Department, University of Illinois at Urbana and again in 1961-62 as a visiting associate professor. While at Illinois in 1954, Bill met Anna Finley and they were married in England in 1957. They lived in Bangor until 1964 when Bill was appointed as a faculty member in the Department of Civil Engineering at Berkeley with continuing service until his retirement in July 1991. Over the course of his career at Berkeley he developed a reputation for strong, innovative teaching, significant administrative service as an assistant dean of the College of Engineering, internationally in research for outstanding contributions to structural modeling including seismic effects, and for his kindness to students and colleagues.


Bill was a superb structural engineering classroom teacher for the analysis and design of structures for students both in Civil Engineering and in Architecture. Over the years he developed a collection of slides and photographs, international in scope, to enrich his instruction. Because of many requests, the collection was made available in 1981 for use for University instruction in the U.S. and internationally. When he retired, he donated his collection to the Earthquake Engineering Research (EERC) Library. Working with the Librarian, Charles James, the entire collection (with additional photos added from his collection) was digitized and is now available from the EERC Library (‘The Bill Godden Structural Slide Library”). The website is:  


The images in this file have been widely used in teaching, in illustration, and in academic publishing.


In 1973, Bill accepted appointment as assistant dean in the College of Engineering with the special charge of developing interdisciplinary studies. His efforts resulted in the establishment of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) located in the Bechtel Engineering Center with its completion in 1980. The Center (which set a pattern for other engineering schools) is now called the Meakin IDS Center and is an important activity of the College of Engineering. Currently, its role is to coordinate studies that involve various branches of engineering, the natural sciences and mathematics, the biological sciences and medicine, and the humanities.


Over the years, a significant part of Bill’s research was devoted to experimental structural mechanics and analysis with considerable emphasis on seismic and other dynamic loadings. The investigations, which involved model studies and analysis, were concerned with real structures not only in California but in the U.S. as well. For the California Department of Water Resources his research included modeling studies of piping at the Edmonton Pumping Plant and the high intake towers including the Castaic Reservoir tower. For the California Division of Highways (now Caltrans) and the Federal Highway Administration his studies included modeling of skewed girder bridges, curved box girder bridges, and high overcrossings subjected to dynamic and seismic loading. These investigations included a seminal model study of a long, cable-stayed curved bridge, the “Ruck-A-Chucky Bridge”, planned to span the American River Canyon near Auburn (the model can be seen in Davis Hall). For the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and Atomic Energy Commission, he conducted a study of the radiation block shielding systems for the linear accelerator subjected to seismic loading. For the U.S. Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, his investigations included studies of sloshing in water tanks and pressure suppression pools of boiling water reactors and piping system response in nuclear power plants from seismic motion. The results of many of these studies resulted in significant design changes to improve structural performance.


In addition to all of his contributions briefly summarized herein, it is important to recognize his love of architecture, especially bridges, and travel, his accomplished photography, his talents in music and painting, and his strong faith. Bill was an active member of the First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley for 45 years and also served as a member of the Board of Trustees at the San Francisco Theological Seminary located in San Anselmo. He truly embodied the Berkeley commitment to excellence in whatever he did.


Bill is survived by his wife of 54 years, Anna Godden, a son John Godden, a daughter Kay Hageman, five grandchildren, and one great grandchild.



Charles D. James

Robert L.Taylor

Carl L. Monismith