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Max Frocht

Max FrochtAuthority in the field of photoelasticity, served on IIT’s mechanical engineering 
faculty from 1946 to 1960.

One of the many foreign-born émigrés who came to the United States, Max Frocht left Poland sometime before 1920, reaching Chicago and IIT only after studying and beginning his career elsewhere. It was at IIT however, beginning in 1946, that his reputation became known world-wide. Frocht researched photoelasticity, a method used by civil and mechanical engineers to visualize physical stresses on surfaces of machine parts, structural beams, and airplane propellers. Later, he pioneered three-dimensional methodologies to analyze interior stresses. 

After teaching in the Mechanics department for 14 years, Frocht spent another four years organizing and directing IIT’s Laboratory for Experimental Stress Analysis. He almost single-handedly funded the lab by securing research grants which paid for the experiments and the students who conducted them and by personally donating nearly $10,000 worth of scientific equipment upon his retirement in 1964.

One of the graduate students who labored under Frocht’s strict management rules and even stricter professional ethics has summarized Dr. Frocht’s impact and significance this way: “It was the indelible mark he left on us as a great teacher, a scholar and a dedicated experimentalist which made a majority of us pursue academic careers and experimental investigations.”

Frocht’s classic two-volume treatise on photoelasticity was translated into Russian, Spanish and Chinese. The M. M. Frocht Award, created in his honor, is presented annually by the Society for Experimental Mechanics and recognizes “outstanding achievement as an educator in the field of experimental mechanics.”

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