History of structural optimisation in Australia

Australia has a long history of leadership in the area of structural optimisation.

In 1904 Anthony Michell, FRS, at the University of Melbourne published a paper in the Philosophical Magazine of the Royal Society entitled “The Limits of Economy of Material in Frame-Structures” and so was born the mathematical and engineering discipline of structural optimisation. This tradition was carried on many years later by Professor George Rozvany, the founder of the International Society for Structural and Multidisciplinary Optimisation (ISSMO) at Monash University in the 1960s and 1970s. He subsequently moved to the University of Essen in Germany. In these days structural optimisation was a highly mathematical process with few practical applications. Another seminal contribution was made by Professor Bill Hempat Oxford University in the 1960s - Professor Grant Steven was a doctorate student of Professor Hemp.

The advent of digital computers and the development of Finite Element Analysis saw the arrival of the concept of using all sorts of algorithms to solve practical problems. A group at the University of Sydney, led by Grant Steven, pioneered the use of quasi-heuristic methods based upon evolutionary processes in nature - called Evolutionary Structural Optimisation.

Several hundred research papers have been published on ESO and its derivatives and the method now has been given mathematical underpinnings. Many of the research students from this period have gone on to become academic researchers themselves and the method and its derivatives are now in common use.

This early work has matured and now the researchers are working in many spin off applications, the main groups being under Professor Mike Xie at RMIT and Professor Qing Li at the University of Sydney.

The research group at University of Sydney has 15 members and continues the tradition in structural and multidisciplinary optimisation (SMO).