Ferdinand P. Beer, a native of Binic, France, joined the Lehigh faculty in 1947 and was appointed the first chairman of the new department of mechanics in 1957. His three best-selling textbooks--Mechanics for Engineers: Statics and Dynamics, Vector Mechanics for Engineers, and Mechanics of Materials-- have been translated into a dozen languages. These textbooks are still used in many engineering classrooms around the world.


Prior to coming to Lehigh, Beer taught at Williams College for four years. Previously, he had served on the staff of the University of Kansas City. Beer received his "license" in mathematics at the University of Geneva in 1935 as well as his Ph.D. in 1937. He held a master's degree from the University of Paris, and did post-graduate work at Brown University.

Career and Accomplishments

In addition to the publication of his three English text books, one of which won the 1976 Graphic Arts Award from Printing Industries of America Inc, Beer wrote a textbook (in French) on calculus and contributed numerous articles to technical journals. Beer chaired the mechanics department until it was merged with the mechanical engineering department in 1968. From 1968 to 1977, he served as chairman of the new mechanical engineering and mechanics department.

As a researcher, Beer studied the response of mechanical systems to random loads. His work was supported by NASA, Boeing, the U.S. Army Engineers, the U.S. Army Chemical Corps, the Federal Civil Defense Administration and other government agencies and private companies.

In 1971, Beer received Lehigh's R.R. and E.C. Hillman Award for "advancing the interests of the university," and in 1983, he earned the engineering college's Service Teaching Excellence Award. In 1974, the Middle Atlantic Section of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) gave Beer the Western Electric Fund Award for excellence in the teaching of engineering students. In 1980, Beer received the Distinguished Educator Award from the Mechanics Division of the Science Society.

A member of ASEE, Beer served as chairman of the society's mechanics division and as chairman of its Middle Atlantic section. He was also a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the American Association of University Professors.

The University Forum

From 1970 to 1971, Beer exercised what many remember as being a "calming influence" on the student body when he was appointed the first chairman of the University Forum, a legislative body whose 125 members consisted of students, faculty and administrators. The forum was established as a place to give students and faculty a place to meet. Fellow faculty members spoke highly of Beer's patience and perseverance as chairman of the University Forum. During the tumultuous 1970's many other American universities around were suffering from student riots and sit-ins. However, Beer is credited with having a calming effect on students while offering a tremendous service to Lehigh during this difficult time.

Sunday, August 8, 1915
Binic, France
Date of Death: 
Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Notable Achievement: 
Published three best-selling textbooks, including Vector Mechanics for Engineers