Nigel Priestley

Life Membership Citation

Dr. Nigel Priestley started university at the age of 16, graduating with BE (Honours, 1st class) at age 20 from the University of Canterbury.  Dr. Priestley continued his schooling at the University of Canterbury and completed his PhD at age 23 in 1966.

Following his PhD, Dr. Priestley spent the 10 years between 1966 and 1976 working as head of the Structures Laboratory of the Ministry of Works (MoW) Central Laboratories in Lower Hutt.  At the MoW, he led extensive studies on both bridges and buildings.  While working at the MoW, Dr. Priestley was also involved in consulting, mainly as a proof engineer for major railway bridges such as the 5th Rangitikei railbridge.

Over the period from 1976-1986, Dr. Priestley was on the faculty at the University of Canterbury. During this time, he conducted extensive research on the seismic behaviour of masonry structures in collaboration with Professor Tom Paulay.  In addition, Dr Priestley studied the behaviour of reinforced concrete columns, with a number of his research papers now recognized as the basis for current understanding on the topic.  During 1985 and 1986, Dr Priestley was the president of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering. Throughout his career, Dr. Priestley has had extensive involvement in NZSEE Study Groups and the preparation of technical publications for the Society.

In 1986, Dr Priestley joined the faculty at University of California, San Diego, where he was a Professor for 14 years and continues to be Professor Emeritus.  While he was at UCSD, Dr. Priestley conducted extensive research into the seismic design of concrete bridges.  During his last three years at UCSD, Dr. Priestley received a special appointment as a visiting fellow funded by the New Zealand Earthquake Commission. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Priestley started his tenure as Co-Director of the ROSE school in Pavia, Italy.  He served in that capacity until 2007.  At the ROSE school, Dr. Priestley was involved in the advising of MS and PhD students, teaching courses in Earthquake Engineering, and working with other ROSE school faculty in setting the curriculum for the unique program.

Dr. Priestley has received numerous honours, including honorary doctorates from ETH, Zurich, and Cujo, Argentina.  He has published more than 450 papers, mainly on earthquake engineering, and received numerous awards for his research.  Nigel is co-author of three seismic design books “Seismic Design of Concrete and Masonry Buildings”, “Seismic Design and Retrofit of Bridges”, and “Displacement-Based Seismic Design of Structures” and has served as the primary advisor for 27 Ph.D. students and numerous MS students.

Dr. Priestley has had a profound impact on three institutions of higher education: The University of Canterbury, University of California, San Diego, and the ROSE School. Along with other colleagues at these institutions, his presence and efforts brought prominence to each of these institutions.