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As publishers of the books written by Ferd Beer and Russ Johnston, we are often asked how did they happen to write the books together, with one of them at Lehigh and the other at the University of Connecticut. The answer to this question is simple. Russ Johnston’s first teaching appointment was in the Department of Civil Engineering and Mechanics at Lehigh University. There he met Ferd Beer, who had joined that department two years earlier and was in charge of the courses in mechanics.

Born in France and educated in France and Switzerland (he held an M.S. degree from the Sorbonne and an Sc.D. degree in the field of theoretical mechanics from the University of Geneva), Ferd had come to the United States after serving in the French army during the early part of World War II and had taught for four years at Williams College in the Williams-MIT joint arts and engineering program.

Born in Philadelphia, Russ had obtained a B.S. degree in civil engineering from the University of Delaware and an Sc.D. degree in the field of structural engineering from MIT. Ferd was delighted to discover that the young man who had been hired chiefly to teach graduate structural engineering courses was not only willing but eager to help him reorganize the mechanics courses.

Both believed that these courses should be taught from a few basic principles and that the various concepts involved would be best understood and remembered by the students if they were presented to them in a graphic way. Together they wrote lecture notes in statics and dynamics, to which they later added problems they felt would appeal to future engineers, and soon they produced the manuscript of the first edition of Mechanics for Engineers. The second edition of Mechanics for Engineers and the first edition of Vector Mechanics for Engineers found Russ Johnston at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the next editions at the University of Connecticut.

In the meantime, both Ferd and Russ had assumed administrative responsibilities in their departments, and both were involved in research, consulting, and supervising graduate students—Ferd in the area of stochastic processes and random vibrations, and Russ in the area of elastic stability and structural analysis and design. However, their interest in improving the teaching of the basic mechanics courses had not subsided, and they both taught sections of these courses as they kept revising their texts and began writing together the manuscript of the first edition of Mechanics of Materials.

Ferd and Russ’s contributions to engineering education earned them a number of honors and awards. They were presented with the Western Electric Fund Award for excellence in the instruction of engineering students by their respective regional sections of the American Society for Engineering Education, and they both received the Distinguished Educator Award from the Mechanics Division of the same society.