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February 3, 2017

Passing the textbook torch

Written By: Pat DeFlorin

Though it is all around us, most people in our society take concrete for granted. Our tallest buildings, longest bridges, deepest tunnels, and most-trafficked roadways are built using reinforced concrete, concrete that is strengthened by a scaffold of steel. But how do engineers learn how to use reinforced concrete in the first place? A book, of course.

In 1965, the first edition of Reinforced Concrete Design, a go-to textbook for structural engineering students, was published by C.K. Wang and Charles G. Salmon, professors of civil engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Now, in 2016, the 8th edition of the textbook is in the process of being published.

This upcoming publication merits a revisit to the textbook’s history, and a logical place to start would be with its original authors.

Co-author Chu-kia “C.K.” Wang was born in 1917, in Wuxi China, an industrial city between Shanghai and Nanking, and came to UW-Madison’s civil engineering department in 1960. During his 32-year tenure at the UW-Madison, Wang became one of the nation’s leading structural engineers and was an innovator in applying computer technology to structural engineering. As a teacher, he taught thousands of students and advised 48 master’s and 17 doctoral students. In addition to Reinforced Concrete Design, Wang authored or co-authored many other textbooks. He passed away in 2013 at the age of 95.

Wang coauthored Reinforced Concrete Design with Charles “Chuck” Salmon. Chuck was born in Detroit in 1930 and came to UW-Madison’s civil engineering department in 1956, where he led a nearly 60-year career as an engineer, teacher and mentor. His contributions to the field of civil engineering are countless. He was an active member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the American Society of Engineering Education. He was also an active member of the American Concrete Institute where he served on the Structural Concrete Building Code Committee (ACI 318) for many years. He was an advisor for the UW-Madison chapter of the civil engineering honor society Chi Epsilon, serving as its president from 1994 to 1996. In 1998, the UW-Madison College of Engineering established the Charles G. Salmon Professorship in Salmon’s name to recognize his commitment to teaching. Salmon passed away in 2014.

In the 7th edition of the book, Wang and Salmon added José Pincheira, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, as coauthor.

“I almost fell off of my seat when Chuck asked me to be a coauthor of the book,” says Pincheira. “I studied with their books when I was a student and I would have never imagined that I would meet the authors one day, let alone be asked to be a coauthor of one of their books.”

Both Wang and Salmon had retired by the time Pincheira joined the faculty at UW-Madison. Wang was living in Florida; Salmon, in Las Vegas. Nevertheless, Pincheira says he got to know them well remotely and in person during events on campus and at conferences.

For the 8th edition, Gustavo Parra-Montesinos, the C.K. Wang professor of structural engineering, joins Pincheira as coauthor and feels similarly humbled to carry on Wang and Salmon’s legacy.

“None of this recent work would have been possible without the monumental task undertaken by C.K. Wang and Chuck Salmon of writing the first few editions of the book,” says Parra-Montesinos. “Starting such a comprehensive textbook from scratch requires years of hard work, patience and discipline. We are thus fortunate to be able to build upon such a strong foundation.”

The 8th edition of Reinforced Concrete Design is one of the major if not the major revision to the book in all of its editions. It has been revised in several ways. First, they updated it with content to reflect changes in the American Concrete Institute (ACI) building code. The ACI code establishes minimum requirements for the design of concrete structures and is widely used worldwide when engineering with concrete. Between 2008 and 2014, a major reorganization of the ACI code took place.

So Parra-Montesinos and Pincheira entirely restructured the 8th edition, explaining concepts differently and revamping practice problems accordingly. Second, they added additional content and practice exercises throughout. For instance, Pincheira added a new chapter on wall design, and Parra-Montesinos added a new chapter on design of composite members.

For Pincheira, having the opportunity to work with Salmon and Wang was a really special experience. “It still amazes me,” he says. “Every time I meet someone and I mention that I am from UW-Madison, they jump right to Chuck and C.K.—Chuck in particular. Chuck would introduce me as if I were an old friend and that was something I always appreciated. Chuck was known by a lot of people. He was tough and would speak up if he thought something wasn’t right. The same with C.K.”

Pincheira says that the books that Wang and Salmon have published, including Reinforced Concrete Design, have brought great distinction and high reputation to UW-Madison and that he feels humbled by the opportunity to carry on that legacy.

“I would dare to say that most civil engineers know about the university from the books—just to give you a sense of the impact that they had not only in the U.S, but around the world,” he says.

Pincheira and Parra-Montesinos are finished working on the 8th edition of Reinforced Concrete Design. It is now in the hands of the publisher, Oxford University Press, and is slated to come out in mid- to late-2017.