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Top honors for Lehigh distinguished alum for contributions in seismology

James R. Rice '62, '63G, '64 Ph.D., the Mallinckrodt Professor of Engineering Sciences and Geophysics at Harvard University, has established himself as one of the most accomplished professors in American history over the last 40 years. From his groundbreaking work in the then-infant world of fracture mechanics to his discovery of the "J-Integral," the distinguished Lehigh alum's contributions to his field have made a positive impact at every turn.

Rice's accomplishments will again take center stage this month in Salt Lake City, as he will be honored as the recipient of the Harry Fielding Reid Medal by The Seismological Society of America (SSA). The award is given to an individual with "outstanding contributions in seismology and earthquake engineering."

Over the last four decades, Rice has delivered on a multitude of critical contributions to the field of earthquake and fault mechanics, with his theories helping to determine how earthquakes could evolve. His experimentation and observations continue to play a major role in determing the problems in the theoretical mechanics of solids and fluids and how they apply to seismology, tectonophysics and surficial geologic processes.

Rice has received other awards for his accomplishments in the field of theoretical mechanics, including the 1994 ASME Timoshenko Medal.

His meteoric rise can be traced back to Bethlehem in 1958, when Rice began his college track at Lehigh University. Quickly discovering an interest in theoretical mechanics, the engineering major worked his way through Lehigh in record time, completing his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in just six years.

During his professorship at Brown University, Rice made what is considered to be his most widely-recognized achievement -- the discovery of the "J-Integral." The "J-Integral" represents the strain energy release rate of non-linear elastic materials. It is used to calculate the energy changes in a general class of solids due to cracking and enables practical applications of non-linear fracture mechanics. His findings were published in the Journal of Applied Mechanics in 1968. He received the ASME Henry Hess Award for his paper, recognized globally as a fracture mechanics benchmark.

Read more about Rice in the College of Engineering's Distinguished Alumni area.

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Sitaraman Krishnan

James R. Rice '62, '63G, '64 Ph.D.