John W. Fisher earned a B.S. in civil engineering from Washington University before coming to Lehigh and earning an M.S. and Ph.D. in the same field. During his 45-year career, Fisher, the former Joseph T. Stuart Professor of civil engineering at Lehigh, won nearly every medal and distinction in his field, and has examined most of the major failures of steel structures in America throughout the last four decades. One of his most recent endeavors was serving on a panel of national experts that investigated the collapse of the World Trade Center following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack.
In 1986, along with some of his students and colleagues, Fisher founded The Advanced Technology for Large Structural Systems (ATLSS) Centerat Lehigh. The ATLSS Center was originally funded with a grant from the Engineering Research Centers (ERC) program of the National Science Foundation. Funding from the ERC program concluded in 1997 after completion of the maximum 11-year life cycle. The ATLSS Center remains engaged in ERC program activities, and now receives funding from a wide range of sources. Under Fisher's direction the ATLSS center has developed over $17 million in research facilities and equipment.
After founding the ATLSS Center, Fisher served as director to establish its goals of conducting cross-disciplinary education and research programs focused on advanced structural materials and systems, intelligent infrastructure systems, and innovative joining systems. he also helped develop technological innovations leading to high-performance large structural systems in partnership with industry and public agencies. Fisher also worked to disseminate knowledge through courses, seminars, publications, and presentations to assist the engineering profession in delivering high-performance infrastructure systems.
Throughout his career, Fisher has focused his research on structural connections, fatigue behavior of welded components, fracture analysis of steel structures and the behavior and performance of steel bridges.
He has been published in more than 250 journals, books, and magazines, including an article titled, ""High-Performance Steels for America's Bridges," published in Welding Journal. Other publications include "Construction Technologies in Japan," in the JTEC Panel Report, "Corrosion and Its Influence on Strength of Steel Bridge Members," in the Transportation Research Record and a book titled Guide to Design Criteria for Bolted and Riveted Joints.
In 1999, Fisher was named by ENR Magazine, the leading journal in the construction industry, as one of the "Top 125 People" of the 125 years since ENR's founding. Of Fisher, the magazine wrote, "After helping to conduct post-mortems on nearly every major failure of a steel structure, from the Hartford Civic Center to the Mianus River Bridge, Fisher campaigned for research to advance technology and prevent failures. Fisher's research has advanced the knowledge of fatigue and brittle fractures of steel."
In 2000, Fisher received the Roy W. Crum Award for outstanding achievement in transportation research, from the Transportation Research Board (TRB). He was cited for "outstanding contributions to bridge engineering and research…His pioneering work on detection and repair of fatigue cracking in steel bridges has advanced the art of bridge engineering, and his research and guidance on fatigue and fracture resistance have informed standard bridge design codes in the United States and abroad."
Other awards include the John Roebling Medal by The Engineer's Society of Western Pennsylvania (1995), the Frank P. Brown Medal by the Franklin Institute (1992), elected as Honorary Member, American Society of Civil Engineers (1989), named Construction's Man of the Year by Engineering News Record (1987), Engineering Alumni Achievement Award by Washington University (1987) and Engineer of the Year, Lehigh Valley Section PSPE (1980). He also received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Education from the American Society of Civil Engineers in April 2007.
Fisher is also a member of the International Association of Bridge and Structural Engineers, the National Society of Professional Engineers, the transportation research board of the American Welding Society, and the American institute of steel construction.
Fisher recently retired as professor emeritus of civil engineering, after serving as the Joseph T. Stuart professor for almost 20 years. At the John W. Fisher Tribute and Symposium, Fisher was honored for two days for his work, research, and professorship at Lehigh, particularly involving the ATLSS center.
Fisher still resides in Bethlehem with his wife, Nelda. They have four grown children.
Degree: M.S., Ph.D. civil engineering
Graduation: 1958, 1964
Notable Achievement: Co-founded the ATLSS center at Lehigh