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Sheldon Wiederhorn


Sheldon M. Wiederhorn received his B.S. Degree in Chemical Engineering from Columbia University in 1956 and his M.S. (1958) and Ph.D. (1960) in Chemical Engineering from the University of Illinois. His first job was with E.I. Du Pont De Nemours & Co. where his research interests turned towards the study of the mechanical behavior of ceramic materials. After three years, he was hired by the National Bureau of Standards to carry out an independent research program on the mechanical behavior of glasses and ceramic materials.

At the National Bureau of Standards, now the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Dr Wiederhorn carried out a program on the mechanical reliability of brittle materials. He was one of the first to apply fracture mechanics techniques to study the fracture of ceramic materials. A consequence of his research was the development of techniques to assure the structural reliability of brittle ceramic materials. Techniques pioneered by Dr Wiederhorn and his colleagues are now used to assure the reliability of glass windows in airplanes, space-vehicles and related applications. 

Dr. Wiederhorn is best known for the experiments that he developed to characterize sub‑critical crack growth in glasses. The results of these studies illustrate the complexity of subcritical crack growth, which consisted of a stress enhanced chemical reactions between water and stressed bonds at the tips of small cracks in glass. A natural conclusion of his study was that the failure of glass was caused by the slow growth of cracks to a critical size which determined the time-to-failure. 

Dr. Wiederhorn has received many awards for his research and leadership at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. These include both a Silver (1969) and Gold Medal (82) by the Department of Commerce, and the Samuel Wesley Stratton Award, (77) by the National Bureau of Standards. He is also a Fellow of the American Ceramic Society (70) and has received a number of important awards for his research from this Society including the Jeppson Award (94) for outstanding research on Ceramic Materials. He is now a Distinguished Lifetime Member of the American Ceramic Society (98). In 1991, Dr. Wiederhorn was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

At the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Dr. Wiederhorn continues to carry out a research program on the mechanical properties of ceramic materials. His current interests are to use the Atomic Force Microscope to investigate the atomistics of crack growth in glasses and ceramic materials with the objective of learning more about the crack growth process and its relation to the microstructure of glass.

Awards or Honors

  • Phi Lambda Upsilon, Chemistry Honor Society, Columbia University, 1956.
  • RESA, University of Illinois, 1960.
  • Department of Commerce, Silver Medal Award (For Valuable Studies of the Fracture Mechanics of Brittle Materials), 1969.
  • American Ceramic Society, Purdy Award (Outstanding Contribution to the Ceramic Literature in the year 1969), 1969.
  • American Ceramic Society, Fellow, 1970.
  • American Ceramic Society, Morey Award (Outstanding Contribution to Glass Science Literature), 1977.
  • National Bureau of Standards, Samuel Wesley Stratton Award (For the Development of Fracture Mechanics Techniques for Brittle Materials and Methods of Assuring the Mechanical Reliability of Glasses and Ceramics), 1977.
  • Department of Commerce, Gold Medal Award (For Major Contributions to the Science of Fracture Mechanics of Glasses and Ceramics), 1982.
  • American Ceramic Society, Sosman Lecture (In Recognition of Outstanding Contributions to Ceramic Science), 1985.
  • Northwestern University, Dow Distinguished Lecture in Materials Science and Engineering, 1988.
  • National Academy of Engineering, Elected as a Member, 1991.
  • Lehigh University, Hobart M. Kraner Award (For Advancing the Field of Chemistry of sub-critical crack growth), 1991.
  • American Ceramic Society, John Jeppson Award (For Pioneering Leadership in the Scientific Understanding of Fracture and Creep Behavior of Ceramics Leading to an Improved Reliability of these Materials), 1994.
  • Alexander Von Humboldt Foundation Prize, 1995
  • Distinguished Lifetime Member of the American Ceramic Society (In Recognition of the Monumental and Seminal Achievements over the Last Quarter Century in Understanding the Mechanical Behavior of Ceramics), 1998
  • Van Horn Distinguished Lecturer for the year 2006, Case-Western Reserve University,
  • S. M. Wiederhorn, L. H. Bolz, "Stress Corrosion and Static Fatigue of Glass," J. Amer. Cer. Soc., 53 (10) 543-548 (1970), selected as one of the eleven best papers published by the American Ceramic Society over the past 110 years.
  • World Academy of Ceramics, Elected as a Member, 2010.

Professional Society Memberships and Offices

American Ceramic Society, 1960 to Present.
American Ceramic Society, Basic Science Division, Chairman, 1974‑75
American Ceramic Society, Journal Editor, 1989-1994.
American Ceramic Society, Board of Directors, 2005-2008
National Academy of Engineering, 1991 to Present



Do Plastic Zones Form at Crack Tips in Silicate Glasses?

Jose Lopez-Cepero, Sheldon M. Wiederhorn, Theo Fett, Jean-Pierre Guin
In a number of recent studies, the claim has been made that silicate glasses fracture by the formation, growth and coalescence of cavities, in the same way that
Created August 6, 2019