Philosophical Society of Washington

Forensic Metallurgy of the RMS Titanic

Timothy Foecke
National Institute of Standards and Technology

2095th Meeting Abstract
Friday, November 6, 1998 at 8:15 PM


What sank the RMS Titanic?

Since that fateful night in April 1912, there has been incredibly sustained interest in determining what really happened to the “unsinkable” Titanic. After her discovery in 1985 under 12,000 feet of water, it became possible to conduct a detailed scientific and forensic analysis of the details of the sinking. This seminar will detail the findings of the panel assembled to perform the first detailed scientific investigation the wreck. Results will be presented on the structural, architectural and particularly the metallurgical analysis of Titanic. Evidence currently points away from the theory that brittle hull steel allowed the ship to shatter on impact with the iceberg. Rather, it appears that a very unlucky set of circumstances involving collision dynamics, ship design and riveting may have led to the most famous maritime disaster in history.

About the Author:

Timothy Foecke is the chief metallurgical investigator on the Marine Forensics Panel of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers. He is currently a Materials Scientist in he Metallurgy Division at NIST. Mr. Foecke was educated at the University of Minnesota where he received a Ph.D. in 1991. He studied brittle cracking in ceramics. He is currently doing metallurgical analysis of several historical shipwrecks of which the Titanic is one. He won the Best Paper Award of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers in 1997.

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