UMR professor and Titanic researcher dies

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On August 30, 2004

Dr. H.P. Leighly, professor emeritus of metallurgical engineering at the UMR died Saturday, Aug. 28, at age 81.

Memorial contributions may be made to Parkinson Research. Leighly is survived by his wife Elizabeth, son David, and daughter Karen.

In 1997, Leighly discovered that "brittle" steel was used in the construction of the Titanic, contributing to its demise on April 15, 1912.

First becoming interested in the Titanic in the mid-1980s, after watching a documentary in which survivors recalled hearing a loud cracking noise when the ship struck the iceberg, Leighly suspected that the noise was a clue that the steel was brittle.

After obtaining more than 400 pounds of steel from the Titanic, he tested steel from the ship’s hull and bulkhead in an attempt to figure out why the steel-hulled ship cracked. Leighly’s analysis was the second — and most comprehensive — study ever conducted on the steel from the Titanic. Impact tests on the steel from the Titanic showed that it was about 10 times more brittle than modern steel when tested at freezing temperatures — the estimated temperature of the water at the time the Titanic struck the iceberg.

Leighly joined UMR’s faculty in 1960 after earlier industrial and academic experience. He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in metallurgical engineering from the University of Illinois in 1948 and 1950, respectively. He then received a Ph.D. in metallurgical engineering from the University of Illinois in 1952.

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On August 30, 2004. Posted in News