James K. Knowles, emeritus William R. Kenan professor and professor of applied mechanics at Caltech, died Nov. 1. He was born April 14, 1931, in Cleveland, Ohio, to Allyan Emma Gray and Newton Talbot Knowles.
He was noted for exceptional teaching and research in continuum and structural mechanics and applied mathematics at MIT, where he received his bachelor and doctorate degrees, and at Caltech, where he was on the faculty from 1958 to 1996 and named honorary alumnus.
He also was known for his leadership and commitment to excellence in science, students and the greater campus community. In addition to serving as acting chairman of the Division of Engineering and Applied Science, he was a member of the board of the Organization of Women at Caltech and the Kent Clark Stock Company, a group that performed musicals honoring Caltech luminaries.
Honors and awards include an honorary doctor of science degree from the National University of Ireland, the Eringen Medal from the society of Engineering Science and the Koiter Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He also was president and fellow of the American Academy of Mechanics and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
Other professional memberships include Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, Society of Engineering Science and Society of Sigma Xi. He also was a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Applied Mechanics, Journal of Elasticity, SIAM Journal on Applied Mathematics, International Journal for Mathematical Education in Science and Technology.
In addition to hundreds of professional articles, he was the author of two scientific books, one with Rohan Abeyaratne. He was the principal invited lecturer at scores of conferences and symposia around the world. Caltech sponsored such a symposium in honor of his 60th birthday.
Caltech also is establishing a James Knowles Lecture in Solid Mechanics for an annual daylong symposium featuring a nationally known scientist with additional lectures by graduate students in the same field.
He is survived by his wife, Jacqueline “Jackie,” and three sons: John, Jeffrey and James. He also leaves five grandchildren, Joshua, Christopher, Jeffrey, Jack and Hallie.
A commemoration will be held Saturday, Nov. 14, 10:30 a.m., Sierra Madre Pioneer Cemetery. A Caltech memorial service will be held in January. Donations may be made to the James Knowles Lecture c/o Caltech, 1200 E. California Blvd., or to The Women’s Room at Friends In Deed, PO Box 4125, Pasadena 91114-8125.