Professor David Ewins passed away in January 2023 at the age of 80. Some notes on his career from Professor David Nowell:
"David Ewins studied Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College. After obtaining his degree he went to Trinity College Cambridge to study for a PhD, supervised by Dr R.W. Gregory. David lodged for a time with Ken and Dorothy Johnson (Ken was a University Lecturer, fellow of Jesus College and expert in Contact Mechanics, later to become a Fellow of the Royal Society). A research student at the same time was Alan Windle, who became a close and lifelong friend. Alan went on to become a fellow of Trinity College in Cambridge and a Professor of Materials Science. David published his first journal paper in 1965 with Peter Grootenhuis: ‘Vibration of a Spring-Supported Body’, Journal of Mechanical Engineering Science, 7(2), 185-19, 1965. Grootenhuis was Reader at Imperial, and the work probably relates to something David did in his final year as an undergraduate. Peter Grootenhuis died in 2020 at the age of 96 – David wrote his obituary for the college website. David completed his thesis in November 1966, entitled ‘The effects of detuning upon the vibration of bladed disks’. A copy may be downloaded from the Imperial archive.
In 1967 David was appointed Lecturer at Imperial College and two years later he published his first single author paper published: ‘The effects of detuning upon the forced vibrations of bladed disks, Journal of Sound and Vibration 9 (1), 65-79. This is currently cited 470 times according to Google Scholar. David’s status as an expert in vibration testing and analysis grew steadily and in 1983 he was appointed as Professor of Vibration Engineering at Imperial College. His first book was published in 1985: ‘Modal Testing, Theory and Practice’. The publishers were Bruel and Kjaer (who are well known as manufacturers of test equipment and instrumentation). David was one of the driving forces behind the development of modal analysis for describing the vibration performance of systems. He worked on both experimental and analytical aspects and he set up extensive laboratory facilities at Imperial.
David had begun collaborating closely with Rolls-Royce plc and in 1990 he founded the University Technology Centre in Vibration at Imperial in collaboration with the company. This was one of the first two UTCs established by Rolls-Royce (the other being Oxford Solid Mechanics, led by Carlos Ruiz). The company has now established over 30 worldwide and they have become the model for academic/industry collaboration. The work that David led at the UTC has been incorporated in a wide range of Rolls-Royce engines, probably saving the company hundreds of millions of pounds. David also enjoyed interacting with engineers from the company and he frequently gave short training courses in vibration. Over his career he must have trained over a thousand company engineers.
In 1995 David was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and between 1999 and 2002 he was Temasek Visiting Professor in Singapore. During this period he published the second edition of his book: Modal testing: theory, practice and application, John Wiley & Sons. Currently this has over 10,000 citations on Google Scholar. A second book followed shortly afterwards, this time co-authored with Dan Inman ‘Structural Dynamics @ 2000: Current Status and Future Directions:’ David’s status was growing within the Imperial as well as in the scientific community. Between 2001 and 2005 he was a Pro-Rector of the college with responsibility for international relations. David retired as UTC director in 2002, handing over to Mehmet Imegrun and he retired from his full-time post at Imperial in 2005. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2006, joining his friend from Cambridge days, Alan Windle.
After retiring from Imperial, David worked at the University of Bristol, acting as Director of the Bristol Laboratory for Advanced Dynamics Engineering (BLADE) and Director of the Augusta-Westland UTC in vibration from 2007. In these positions, David was covering for the absence of his former PostDoc Nick Lieven, who was serving as Dean of the Faculty. By this time David had become interested in non-linear behaviour, particularly frictional damping and behaviour of assemblies with frictional joints. He was instrumental in pulling together a community of dynamicists, tribologists and solid mechanics experts in order to formulate an integrated approach. A number of workshops were organised, including two at Dartington, each preceded by a tea party hosted by David and his wife Rosemary at their home in Newton Abbot.
From 2010 to 2014 David was Chair of the Scientific and Technology Advisory Board for EU Clean Sky Research Programme. In 2014 he was appointed a Fellow of the Society for Experimental Mechanics. David continued to pursue his research interests vigorously alongside an active retirement. His most recent journal paper appears in a journal issue from 2023: An Investigation of Complex Mode Shapes, C Verhoeven, DJ Ewins, MHM Ellenbroek, X Yao… - Nonlinear Structures & Systems, Volume 1, 2023. David has 524 articles listed on Google Scholar, with over 25,000 citations and an h-index of 65 (i.e. 65 papers with over 65 citations)."
1- Professor Ewins (first from left) pictured with Sir Ralph Robbins (Rolls-Royce) at the opening of the vibration UTC in 1990. Sir Ralph graduated from Imperial in 1955 and was at the time the CEO of Rolls-Royce.
2- 25th Anniversary of the UTC in 2014. The photo shows three of the four subsequent UTC directors, including David Ewins (holding green folder, right-hand side)