The CEE-Switzerland Connection

Konrad Basler and Jean-Claude Badoux are two of Switzerland’s most accomplished and influential civil engineers. See how Lehigh helped start and shape their careers.


Switzerland Civil Engineering
Switzerland's unique geography has been both a challenge and an opportunity for two of its most accomplished civil engineers — Lehigh graduate's Konrad Basler and Jean-Claude Badoux.
 

“In the 1950s, the most famous place to be in the world for structural engineering in steel design was Lehigh University,” says Konrad Basler (‘59 Ph.D.)

During these years, Basler was particularly interested in the area of plastic design in steel structures. He knew of Lehigh’s Lynn S. Beedle (‘49G, ‘52 Ph.D.), a National Academy of Engineering member and former Lehigh University Distinguished Professor. Beedle had served as a naval architect during World War II, and his work examining how deep submarines could dive without buckling led him into plastic design. After joining the faculty at Lehigh, Beedle organized the 1955 Plastic Design in Structural Steel conference in Fritz Lab.

Basler calls the paper Beedle published after the conference as one of his three most treasured publications in the field. It’s what convinced him to go to the United States, and it’s why he knew he had to see for himself what was happening on South Mountain.

Basler had considerable experience in the area of steel plate girders in large structures, which caught the attention of Beedle. The rest is history. Konrad made significant contributions to the study of large structures while at Lehigh. Five papers he wrote at this critical time in the study of large structures were published by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and are available through Lehigh’s Fritz Engineering Reports. His radical and influential work on girders was widely recognized for its contributions in the field.

After obtaining his Ph.D., Basler decided to return home to his native Switzerland. At the time, Basler says, Switzerland was — no pun intended — very structured in the way it approached civil engineering problems. His return allowed him to apply what he learned in ways that would advance the profession in his home country. In 1966, he joined the Swiss firm Basler & Hofmann, founded by his brother Ernst and business partner Ernst Hofmann. While Ernst left the firm shortly thereafter to pursue his interests in environmental sustainability, Konrad and Hofmann went on to build a world-class leading engineering and design firm. The company has grown from its humble beginnings and now employs more than 500 people in the areas of construction, energy, the environment, mobility, and safety.

Konrad also served on the Swiss National Council — one of the houses of the Federal Assembly — from 1977 to 1991. There, he dealt with energy, environmental, and financial policy.

In recent years, Basler has made efforts to help future generations of students, both at Lehigh and in Switzerland at his other alma mater, the prestigious Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich (ETHZ). He has given his support to the Lynn S. Beedle Distinguished Civil and Environmental Engineering Award and the John W. Fisher Graduate Student Fellowship Award at Lehigh, the latter named after his long-time friend, NAE member, and renowned emeritus professor of structural engineering. At ETHZ, he contributed to the Excellence Scholarship Opportunity Program, which supports ETH graduate students pursuing master’s degrees.

A Fellow Countryman Leaves His Own Mark
During his transition from Lehigh to Basler & Hoffman, Konrad found himself supporting the early career of another young, exceedingly intelligent Swiss civil engineering in Jean-Claude Badoux (‘65 Ph.D.). Basler and his identical twin brother, Ernst Basler, recommended Badoux to study civil engineering at the graduate level at Lehigh, and after completing his Ph.D., Badoux too returned to Switzerland.

He worked as a technical advisor and expert on more than 100 construction projects in Switzerland and other countries, and he has been an investigation expert for several structural failures and construction accidents and arbitrator in many complex plants and installations.

In addition to his industry experience, Badoux has also been active in academia. From 1992 to 2000, he was President of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) in Lausanne. He has also served as President of the Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences and the Swiss Society of Engineers and Architects.

Like Basler, Badoux has given back to his alma mater, in order to advance the education of future civil engineers, through both the Bruce Johnston Endowed Professorship fund and the Fazlur Rahman Khan Chair fund. Badoux was also an active member of Lehigh University’s Global Council, a body of distinguished alumni from around the world who advised Lehigh in its early strategic planning of its international engagement activities. Through that early work of Badoux and his colleagues, Lehigh established the Office of International Affairs in Coxe Hall that now boasts a suite of vibrant programming throughout the campus and in student experiences abroad.

Since their respective time at Lehigh, Basler and Badoux have remained connected — getting together from time to time to reminisce about their academic pursuits in Fritz Lab, as well as their lengthy and distinguished careers.

By John Gilpatrick

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