Former ME Professor Michael Carroll Passed Away on January 17

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Michael M. Carroll, 2000 (Photography by Sharon M. Steinman)


It is with great sadness that we relay the news that Professor Michael Carroll passed away on Sunday, January 17, 2016, in Houston, after a long struggle with Parkinson's disease and cancer. Professor Carroll was a faculty member of our Mechanical Engineering Department from 1965 until 1988 when he became Dean of Engineering at Rice University.


Professor Jim Casey, a former ME graduate student, recalls some of his experiences taking classes from Professor Carroll. “As a graduate student, Michael Carroll studied under the renowned British elastician  Ronald Rivlin at Brown University. He brought a new spirit and novel ideas to our department. Among the many courses he taught in dynamics, continuum mechanics, and acoustics, nonlinear elasticity was probably where he came through at his finest. A most enthusiastic lecturer, he depended on his incredible natural intelligence to solve difficult problems in real time. Mostly, it worked out beautifully by the end of class. But sometimes, a problem evolved in front of our eyes into an even more interesting problem whose solution was not apparent. The excitement of discovery was in the air. Carroll’s lectures were enhanced by his quick wit and a wonderful sense of humor.”


Professor Carroll was born on December 8, 1936, in rural Ireland. In 1954, Carroll entered the University College, Galway (UCG), where he majored in Mathematical Science, and received his B.A. degree in 1958.  In the fall of 1960, Professor Carroll was accepted for graduate studies in the Division of Applied Mathematics at Brown University and he completed his Ph.D. dissertation, Electro-Magneto-Optical Effects, in 1965. In the fall of 1965, Professor Carroll joined UC Berkeley’s Department of Mechanical Engineering as Assistant Professor. 


Professor Carroll held the title of Shell Distinguished Chair from 1983 to 1988.  During 1969-71, he served as Ombudsman on the Berkeley campus, a position in which he advocated on behalf of students to resolve grievances. In 1986, he became Associate Dean for Interdisciplinary Studies, in the College of Engineering at Berkeley, a position which he held until 1988. 


Professor Carroll had little interest in leaving Berkeley, but in the late 1980s, Rice University, aggressively searching for a new Dean of Engineering, succeeded in piquing him into taking on a major new challenge.  In 1988, Carroll became Dean of the George R. Brown School of Engineering, with faculty appointments in the Departments of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science and Computational & Applied Mathematics, and with an endowed professorship, named in honor of Burton J. and Ann M. McMurtry. During the 10-year period of Carroll’s deanship, the size of the engineering faculty at Rice increased substantially. 


During the 1980’s, Carroll served on the ASME Applied Mechanics Division Executive Committee, rotating into the chair’s position in 1986.  He was President of the Society of Engineering Science during 1986-87.


Professor Carroll published over 100 technical papers. He was best known for his work on nonlinear elasticity and porous granular media. He also made contributions to nonlinear optics, electromagnetism, nonlinear wave propagation, acoustics, viscoelasticity, and the mechanics of sports. His work was characterized by keen physical insight, mathematical rigor, clarity, and a sense of elegance.


In recognition of his distinguished career, Professor Carroll received many honors. He became a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in 1984 and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1987. In 1979, he received his D.Sc. from the National University of Ireland (NUI).  This was followed in 1992 by conferral of the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws (LL.D), also by NUI.  He was a Fellow of both the American Academy of Mechanics (1990) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1995).  He was also an Honorary Member of the ASME (1999).


Professor Carroll is survived by his wife Carolyn, son Tim, and daughter Patricia, and their children.