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Obituary

Professor David Roger Jones Owen, Research Professor at the College of Engineering, passed away at the age of 77 on Monday 13th January.

Professor Owen joined Swansea University in 1967 and was instrumental to the establishment and development of the Department of Civil Engineering (now Zienkiewicz Centre for Computational Engineering, as part of the College of Engineering). He is an international authority in finite element and discrete element methods and has supervised over 80 PhD students during his long service at the University.

Professor Owen has made fundamental and lasting contributions to the field of computational modelling (specifically in the areas of Finite Element and Discrete Element Methods) which is a methodology that has transformed analytical and design procedures in almost all branches of engineering. In particular, the technology has replaced more traditional methods and is now embedded in industrial solution procedures worldwide. Moreover, solutions can now be obtained for problems previously considered to be intractable, due to an inability to computationally describe the underlying governing behaviour, as well as limitations related to geometric constraints and time scales, and is now recognised as being the Third Pillar of Scientific Progress, alongside theoretical developments and experimentation.

Professor Owen has made prominent contributions of both an academic and industrial nature to important areas in the field over the last four decades, whose impact has been recognised both by the UK research community through a number of scientific awards (including Fellow of the Royal Society, Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and Founding Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales) and internationally by Foreign Membership of the US National Academy of Engineering and Foreign Membership of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Professor Owen was also presented with the 2016 Friendship Medal, which is the People's Republic of China highest award for foreign experts who have made outstanding contributions to the country's economic and social progress.

His research developments are underpinned by over four hundred scientific publications and, of equal importance, seven textbooks that have extensive practical content permitting readers to develop computational solution methods of their own for a range of academic and industrial problems. These developments can be recognised in codes found in commercial systems worldwide. The value of his profound contributions to the field of computational modelling has been reflected by award of the majority of the prestigious international medals in the field, as well as Honorary Doctorate Degrees from the universities of Porto, Portugal (1998), Ecole Normale Superieure de Cachan, France (2007), Polytechnic University of Catalunya (UPC), Spain (2012), University of Split, Croatia (2016), University of Cape Town, South Africa (2019), in addition to his own institution, Swansea University, UK (2016).

Finally, driven by the practical value of his research, Professor Owen established Rockfield Software Ltd. (1985) aimed at disseminating his academic work to the industrial sector and the company is active in both UK and Australia. The success of the company has led, under Professor Owen’s Chairmanship, to the granting of the Queen’s Award for Innovation in 2002 and 2007.

Professor Owen was an excellent mentor to a large number of international and Swansea colleagues in the area of computational mechanics. His mentorship created a large number of new generation computational mechanics researchers all over the world.

We have lost a great scientist, and a passionate innovator and an outstanding colleague. Professor Owen leaves a massive gap in the fields where he works.