Brief CANCAM History

The first CANCAM was held at Université Laval in 1967. It was Canada’s Centennial year and the conference attracted over 250 papers from around the world. The inaugural address was given by Maurice Roy, the President of the International Union of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics (IUTAM), and the list of general lecturers included Brian Spalding of Imperial College, a ‘father’ of CFD; Anatol Roshko, Theodore von Karman Professor of Aeronautics at Caltech; Hans Ziegler, Professor of Mechanics at the ETH in Zurich; and Clifford Truesdell, Professor of Rational Mechanics at Johns Hopkins University. It was an exciting and stimulating conference and its success led to the series of CANCAM conferences held every 2 years since then.

Research in applied mechanics at the time of CANCAM 1967 generally concentrated on generic problems related to the physics as well as the mathematical or experimental tools required for their analysis. The CANCAM papers were divided simply into 3 fields: solid mechanics, fluid mechanics and thermodynamics. Often, the research had no specific practical application in mind and there was virtually no interaction between industry and academia. Digital computers were just beginning to become useful tools for engineering calculations and almost all of the papers presented were analytical or experimental in nature.     

During the 1950’s and 60’s, engineering education was expanding rapidly and being made much more mathematically rigorous. Applied mechanics provided the foundation for these developments. Graduate student numbers were much smaller and, at many schools, courses in advanced mathematics (mathematical physics) were core and obligatory. Calculations were typically done using simplified methods and slide rules. These methods worked astonishingly well, permitting such notable achievements as the SR-71 Blackbird (the Mach 3 spy plane which flew over the Soviet Union with impunity for nearly 30 years), our first generation of nuclear reactors, and the Apollo moon landing.

The changes which have occurred in applied mechanics over the last 50 years have been truly astounding and has affected nearly every aspect of our lives. The development of powerful high speed computers has made it possible to address problems, both numerically and experimentally, which could only have been dreamt of in 1967. Numerous engineering problems which could only be studied experimentally can now be solved numerically, thereby rendering obsolete a number of experimental methods and reducing design and development time substantially. Automobiles can now be designed and put into production in less than 3 years. Modern aircraft can be built with a minimum of wind tunnel testing. Vehicles can be designed for crashworthiness, thereby improving human safety. The field of biomechanics has evolved with productive collaboration between medicine and engineering, to the great benefit to the quality of human life. The list goes on and on.  There is no doubt that applied mechanics will continue to prosper and to grow in importance as long as we do not lose sight of the foundations on which the discipline has been built.