In memoriam of Professor Robert Law Wardlaw (1927-2022)
On Friday August 26, 2022, Robert (Bob) Law Wardlaw passed away at the age of 95 at his home in Ottawa, Ontario.
Bob played an important role in the development of wind engineering in Canada, leading a very active group at Canada’s National Research Council (NRC) in Ottawa from the 1960’s through to his retirement in 1990. He joined NRC in 1949 after obtaining his B.Sc. in Engineering Science from the University of Toronto. In 1956 he moved to the Low-Speed Aeronautical Laboratory of NRC where he became involved in wind engineering in the 1960’s. These were early days in wind engineering with the first boundary layer wind tunnels being constructed in the USA by Jack Cermak and in Canada by Alan Davenport.
NRC began to receive an increasing number of enquiries from structural designers, architects, industrial companies, and planners looking for help in designing their projects or products for wind. NRC’s wind tunnels were originally built for aeronautical applications, but Bob Wardlaw and his group devised ways of developing thick boundary layers in them suitable for wind engineering applications. Also, sectional model test rigs were designed and fabricated that allowed the tunnels to be used to examine the aeroelastic stability of structures such as long span bridges and electrical power cables.
As a result, under Bob’s leadership, his group became involved in a very wide variety of wind engineering applications in Canada and the USA. These included: major bridge projects; electrical transmission lines; tall buildings; pedestrian comfort studies; industrial structures for the nuclear power industry; roadway sign structures; stadium structures; wind effects on industrial weigh scales; wind uplift of roof paving and gravel systems; vehicle drag reduction; and the aerodynamics of competitive cycling and skiing. Bob’s contributions became well recognized in Canada and abroad. He also collaborated with other leading researchers, including Prof. Bob Scanlan in the USA. His low-key leadership style encouraged those working with him to develop their own ideas and confidence in problem solving. Informal discussion, frequently over coffee and tea breaks, often led to new and fruitful initiatives. Also, in project meetings with designers, Bob had a relaxed way of setting people at ease. Getting to know people first was more important to him than jumping straight into the engineering problem and this led to trusting relationships and productive collaborations. He also served as a link between designers with similar interests. For example, in Canada he introduced two young bridge engineers, Peter Buckland and Peter Taylor, to each other which led them to form a new company, Buckland and Taylor Limited, in Vancouver. The company grew to be a premier bridge design firm that set new standards for elegance and efficiency of design, especially of cable-stayed bridges. It eventually became part of the international consultancy COWI.
After retiring from NRC Bob continued for some years to provide advice as an independent consultant but mostly enjoyed spending time with his family and friends. He and his wife Jane were happily married for 61 years and had five children and 10 grand children with whom they enjoyed an active lifestyle of cross-country skiing, canoeing, travel and hiking. He contributed much to the development of wind engineering in Canada and influenced the careers of many. He will be remembered as a fine mentor, colleague, and friend.
Peter A. Irwin PhD, P.Eng., CM, FCAE, NAE, FCSCE, FEIC, FASCE, FSEI
Senior Technical Director and Past President RWDI.