Lynn Simpson Beedle was the founder and long-time director of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, an organization with enormous influence over the world's view of modern skyscrapers. During his half-century of work at Lehigh, he helped generate a steady stream of international visibility for the engineering school, thanks in part to his work at Fritz Lab.
Beedle was born near San Francisco in 1917 at the conclusion of World War I to Granville and Mary Beedle. He made his home in the Bay Area for the first 30 years of his life and attended UC Berkeley, where he received a B.S. in civil engineering with a minor in architecture. During World War II he was recruited by the Navy to perform underwater explosion research at the Norfolk Shipyard in Virginia. He met his future wife Ella while he was in the service, and together they had four sons and a daughter. In 1946, he was the officer-in-charge for the Bikini Atomic Bomb Tests that were conducted by the Navy in preparation for the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Beedle came to Lehigh in 1947 as an instructor in civil engineering. He enrolled in the university's engineering graduate school with a major in structural engineering and a minor in metallurgy, and in 1949 received his M.S. Three years later he completed his Ph.D., and in 1957 was promoted to full professor. (In 1978 he was named a University Distinguished Professor.)
Lehigh's Fritz Lab, named after the original university trustee and Bethlehem Iron Works founder (which later became Bethlehem Steel), had just received a major addition in 1955 and was hailed as the world's most impressive structural testing facility. Beedle was named Fritz Lab Director of Research in 1960, a position he held until 1984. He also headed up the scholarly Structural Stability Research Council for nearly 25 years. Under his leadership, countless industry and federally funded research projects occurred between the facility's walls, including tests on the steel used for several major bridges, skyscrapers, and the Telstar Satellite, the world's first broadband satellite. Beedle's areas of expertise in structural research included plastic design in steel, column stability, high-strength bolting, and weld beam-to-column connections.
In 1969, Beedle founded the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitats at Lehigh. Over the next three decades, he propelled the organization to high levels of success that brought him and the engineering college world-wide recognition. The council website describes itself as "an international non-profit organization sponsored by architectural, engineering, planning, and construction professionals, established to facilitate professional exchanges among those involved in all aspects of the planning, design, construction and operation of tall buildings and the urban habitat." Today, the organization boasts more than 1500 members. In , 1996 Beedle personally mediated the Council's debate over the world's tallest building, which ensued between Chicago's Sears Tower and Malaysia's Petronas Towers. He concluded that the Sears Tower's 253-foot-antenna wasn't an integral part of the structure and was therefore shorter than the Petronas Towers. He served as director of the council until 1999.
When notable engineer Fazlur Khan died of a heart attack in 1982, Beedle organized the establishment of the Fazlur Rahman Khan Chair at Lehigh. He continued to raise funds and serve as coordinator until 2001. He also organized the Bruce G. Johnston endowed professorship.
Beedle's accomplishments brought him practically every prestigious award in civil engineering. In 1972, the same year he helped organize the first international conference on tall buildings, Beedle was given a membership in the National Academy of Engineering, the industry's highest recognition. In 1978, Lehigh honored him with the title of Distinguished Professor of Civil Engineering. He received the John Fritz Medal, the Berkeley Engineering Alumni Society Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award, and the 1982 Franklin Institute's Frank P. Brown Medal for his contributions to structural steel research. He twice received the Engineering News-Record's Construction Engineering Award and in 1999 was named one of their "Top 125 people" in engineering since 1874. He was the author, co-author, or editor of more than 200 books, papers, and articles, including the five-volume monograph Planning and Design of Tall Buildings. He was a recipient of ASCE's 2002 OPAL Outstanding Projects and Leaders) Award for Lifetime Achievement in Management. Also in 2002, the Council on Tall Buildings created the Lynn S. Beedle Achievement Award in his honor; Beedle was the first recipient.
Birth: December 7, 1917
Birthplace: Orland, CA
Died: October 30, 2003
Degree: Masters, PhD. civil engineering
Graduation: 1949, 1952
Notable Achievement: Founder of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitats, member of the NAE