The School of Civil & Environmental Engineering notes with great sadness the passing of our colleague Emeritus Professor Somasundaram Valliappan (Val) on 12 Dec 2022.  Val, as he was affectionately known, was an active member of the School academic staff from 1969 until his retirement in 2003, and was an international academic authority and a renowned expert in computational mechanics.

He was described as ‘a towering figure’ by Head of School PSM & Scientia Professor Nasser Khalili. ‘He was a mentor to many staff within the School’ he said, ‘and will be immensely missed by all those who have been fortunate enough to know him.’

Somasundaram Valliappan was born on June 15, 1933, in Devakottai, India. He graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering, from Annamalai University in 1955, and married Kamala in 1956. He lectured at Annamalai for some years before undertaking a Master of Science at Boston’s Northeastern University, graduating in 1963. A Doctor of Philosophy, under the direction of the famous mathematician and civil engineer Professor Olgierd Cecil Zienkiewicz at the University of Wales (Swansea) soon followed.

Val’s PhD on ‘Non-Linear Stress Analysis of Two-Dimensional Problems with Special Reference to Rock and Soil Mechanics’ was completed in 1968.  His 1969 publication ‘Elasto-plastic solution of engineering problems; initial stress, finite element approach’ (with Olgierd Cecil Zienkiewicz, Ian P. King) was, and is, a major contribution to the analysis of inelastic problems in the transient state.

Val and his family came to Australia in 1969 where he joined the academic staff of the UNSW School of Civil Engineering.  In 1971 a new department of Civil Engineering Materials led by Professor Ian Lee was formed within the School.  (It was renamed as Geotechnical Engineering in 1988). An intensive and fruitful collaboration between Lee and Val developed. Having received three ARGC grants continuously from 1973 to 1980 they worked on projects such as ‘Strength and Deformation Characteristics of Soils, Rocks and Composites due to Static and Dynamic Loading’.

From these projects, numerical techniques supplemented by experimental investigations were developed for the solutions of anisotropic and nonlinear consolidation, soil-structure interaction including raft-pile foundations, isotropic and anisotropic plasticity solutions for foundations, foundations subjected to dynamic and earthquake loadings, retaining structures, interaction of tunnel openings, and mining subsidence and liquefaction.

These important investigations into the behaviour of soils and rocks facilitated the execution of several practical problems for various NSW Government organizations such as the Public Works Department, the Water Board and Electricity Commission, including stress analysis of Hume, Parramatta and Warragamba dams; prediction of mining subsidence in Newcastle; earthquake effects on the intake Tower of Mangrove Creek Dam, and the liquefaction potential of ash dam foundations.

Val also produced more classic texts which made significant contributions to the global body of civil engineering knowledge, as well as becoming seminal textbooks which have served generations of students, including Finite Element Analysis in Geomechanics, (1979) Unisearch Ltd, Sydney. And Continuum Mechanics –Fundamentals, (1981) AA Balkema, Netherlands.

After Ian Lee’s departure in 1985, Valliappan led a research group within the department which concentrated on developing analytical and numerical approaches based on sound theoretical principles to solve complex problems in geomechanics. This group included two of his many brilliant PhD students, Viriyawan Murti (PhD ‘87) and Nasser Khalili (PhD ’91). The highlights of Valliappan’s work during this period, with several projects supported by ARC funding, were in the areas of fracture mechanics (Valliappan, Murti and K K Ang), damage mechanics (Valliappan, Zhang Wohua and Mehdi Yazdchi), and fuzzy finite elements (Valliappan and Tuan Duc Pham).

In particular Valliappan’s work on the application of fuzzy finite element analysis to geotechnical problems attracted international attention, and he was promoted to Professor in 1994. 

In 1999 Valliappan was one of the initiators  of the APACM which brings together 13 computational mechanics associations in the Asia-Pacific region. Its aim is to promote the activities related to computational mechanics in the Asia-Pacific region and to represent the region's interests in the International Association. The APACM congress (APCOM) awards an important medal bearing his name every 3 years since 2013.

In 2002 Valliappan was awarded a Medal for Outstanding Contributions in computational mechanics from the International Association for Computational Mechanics and a Zienkiewicz (Congress) Medal in 2004 from the Asian Pacific Association – CM for his outstanding contributions in computational mechanics and leadership in promoting computational mechanics.

Val retired in 2003 but continued as an Emeritus Professor with many technical, academic, and professional community projects and collaborations. He was an Honorary Member of the International Association of Computational Mechanics (IACM) and had served as Vice President of IACM and President of APACM.

In noting Professor Valliappan’s passing, Professor Kenjiro Terada, the current President of IACM said that ‘his scientific legacy and his example will guide us and also future generations. Moreover, I believe that it is also important to acknowledge his longstanding support and continuous work for the Community. His death leaves a deep void in the heart of many of us.’

Our sincere condolences go to Val’s family – his wife Kamala and children: Vimala, Asha, and Trisha.

Vale Val, and thank you.

Arman Khoshghalb, Nasser Khalili & Somasundaram Valliappan at the International Conference on Unsaturated Soils UNSAT 2014

    • 1978 Pravit Boonlualohr PhD Numerical analyses of continua.
    • 1987 Kok Keng Ang PhD Finite element analysis of wave propagation problems with special reference to underground openings.
    • 1987 Viriyawan Murti PhD Numerical fracture mechanics using finite element method.
    • 1991 Nasser Khalili Naghadeh PhD Numerical modelling of flow through fractured media.
    • 1993 Wohua Zhang PhD Numerical analysis of continuum damage mechanics.
    • 1995 Tuan Duc Pham PhD Fuzzy finite element analysis of engineering problems.
    • 1995 Yazdi Javad Tabatabaie PhD Analysis of wave propagation in saturated porous media due to dynamic loading.
    • 1997 Mehdi Yazdchi PhD Damage mechanics applied to seismic analysis of concrete gravity dams.
    • 1998 Wei Wang PhD Contaminant transport in fractured porous media.
    • 1999 Vipman Tandjiria PhD Optimal design of raft-pile foundations.
    • 1968: Stress Analysis of Rock as a 'No Tension' Material (with  Olgierd Cecil Zienkiewicz , Ian P. King) 
    • 1969:  Elasto-plastic solution of engineering problems; initial stress, finite element approach (with Olgierd Cecil Zienkiewicz , Ian P. King)
    • 1970:  Finite element analysis in rock mechanics: a general review (with  Olgierd Cecil Zienkiewicz , Joannis G.  Ergatoudis.)
    • 1972: Nonlinear Stress Analysis of Reinforced Concrete (with Terry F. Doolan)
    • 1979: Finite Element Analysis in Geomechanics, (1979) Unisearch Ltd, Sydney
    • 1981: Continuum Mechanics –Fundamentals, (1981) AA Balkema, Netherlands
    • 1984: Nonlinear analysis of contact problems (with IK Lee, P. Boonlualohr)
    • 1992: Assessment of the accuracy of the Newmark method in transient analysis of wave propagation problems (with  Yue-Cong Wang, Viriyawan Murti )
    • 2001: Computational mechanics: new frontiers for new millennium: (with Nasser Khalili)
    • 2008:  Aging degradation of Mechanical Structures (with Calvin K. Chee)
    • 2012: Numerical Analysis of Smart Structures with Uncertainties (with Ken Froth)
    • Fellow American Society of Civil Engineers,
    • Fellow Institution Engineers Australia
    • 1981: Doctor of Science awarded by the University of Wales
    • 1998: Fellow International Association Computational Mechanics.
    • 2002: Zienkiewicz International Association Computational Mechanics Prize.
    • 2004: Zienkiewicz medal from the APACM congress