Müller-Breslau, Heinrich (Franz Bernhard)

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(b. Breslau, Germany [now Wroclaw, Poland], 13 May 1851; d. Berlin, Germany, 23 April 1925)

theory of structures.

The son of a merchant, Müller (after the l870’s he styled himself Müller-Breslau) grew up in Breslau. In 1869, upon graduation from the Realgymnasium, he joined the Prussian army engineers and saw action in the Franco-Prussian War. After the war he gave up plans for a military career in order to become a civil engineer. Müller then moved to Berlin and embarked upon an informal program of study consisting of courses in engineering at the Gewerbeakademie and of lectures in mathematics at the university. Without graduating he began practicing as an independent consulting engineer at Berlin in 1875, specializing in the design of iron structures, chiefly bridges. At the same time he prepared his first major book, Theorie und Berechnung der eisernen Bogenbrücken, (1880) and a series of articles on problems of statically indeter- minate structures. In 1883 Müller-Breslau was appointed professor of bridge design at the Polytechnic Institute of Hannover. The steady flow of his publi- cations and some notable designs rapidly established his reputation, and in 1888 he was appointed to the chair of structural engineering at the Berlin- Charlottenburg Institute of Technology. Here he worked as a teacher, researcher, and consultant for the rest of his life, serving in 1895–1896 and 1910–1911 as rector.

Müller-Breslau has been termed the founder of modern structural engineering in Germany. Among the more significant designs credited to him are the Volga bridge at Kazan, Russia, and the new cathedral in Berlin. He also participated in the construction of Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin’s airships, designed large aircraft hangars, and contributed to the intro- duction of cantilever wings on airplanes.

Müller-Breslau exerted even greater influence through his publications, notably his books. His numerous monographs deal with specific problems in the theory of structures, such as cantilevers, arches, lattice structures, earth pressure on retaining walls, and buckling of straight bars. He did not present methods or theories of fundamental novelty; his strength was the refinement and elaboration of earlier methods, presented in systematic and unified form. In Die neueren Methoden der Festigkeitslehre und der Statik der Baukonstruktionen (1886) he consistently based the solution of statically indeterminate structural systems upon the strain energy methods of L. F. Menabrea and C. A. Castigliano. The last three decades of Müller-Breslau’s life were devoted chiefly to his magnum opus, Die graphische Statik der Baukonstruktionen. A three-volume handbook (1887, 1892, 1908), it came to be internationally regarded as the definitive presentation of the graphical methods of structural design.


I. Original Works. A bibliography of Müller-Breslau’s most important publications is given by H. Reissner in Zeitschrift für angewandte Mathematik und Mechanik, 5 (1925), 277–278. Besides some 35 research papers it lists the following books: Theorie und Berechnung der eisernen Borgenbrücken, (Berlin, 1880); Die neueren Methoden der Festigkeitslehre und der Statik der Baukonstruktionen (Leipzig, 1886); Die graphische Statik der Baukonstruk- tionen, 3 vols. (Leipzig, 1887–1908); and Erddruck auf Stützmauern (Stuttgart, 1906).

II. Secondary Literature. Biographical information on Müller-Breslau can be found in Karl Bernhard, “Müller-Breslau in Bautechnik, 3 (1925), 261–262; A. Hertwig, “Rede, gehalten bei der Gedenkfeier für Müller-Breslau am 25. Juni 1925,”in Stahlbau, 20 (1951), 53–54; H. Müller-Breslau, Jr., “Heinrich Müller-Breslau,”in H. Boost et al., Festschrift Heinrich Müller-Breslau (Leipzig, 1912), v-viii; Poggendorff, VI, 1802; H. Reissner, “H. Müller-Breslau,”in Zeitschrift für angewandte Mathematik und Mechanik, 1 (1921), 159–160, and 5 (1925), 277–278; and Stephen P. Timoshenko, History of Strength of Materials (New York, 1953), passim.

Otto Mayr

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