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You are here : Obituaries : Articles : Prof. Walter Graf

Prof. Walter Graf (1936-2017)

Prof. Walter Graf during the IAHR World Congress in Venice 2007.
A well-known and distinguished colleague has passed away. Walter Graf was known in the hydraulics community as an expert mainly in sediment hydraulics, having significantly contributed to the current understanding of two-phase mixtures in the fluvial environment. For a long time he has been closely affiliated with the International Association of Hydro-Environment Engineering and Research (IAHR) having often participated in its biannual World Congresses. He is also remembered for his many outstanding papers on the above and other topics, published mainly in the IAHR Journal of Hydraulic Research, and in the ASCE Journal of Hydraulic Engineering Read full obituary

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TAMAI NOBUYUKIThe University of Tokyo

  I am in deep sorrow with the news that Prof. Walter Graf has passed away in June, 2017. In this comment I would like to explain several episodes of Walter through which I felt his unique personality in both science and cultural topics.
1) Walter’s View on Originality told in the Cathedral of Lausanne
  He is quite proud of the artistic quality of the Cathedral as a symbol of a historically important city of Lausanne. He explained three things can be counted as the first rate in the world in the Cathedral of Lausanne. They are 1) rosette, 2) original color painting in the third nave, and 3) pillars which change rhythmically toward chancel and create higher spiritual emotion. Taking the Cathedral of Lausanne as an example he introduced me a process of development of culture and technology in Europe through Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque to Modern art and technology.
  He also insisted me that innovation or creation was accomplished on the accumulated of all layers of European culture. When we study the latest theory, previous structure should be imbedded in it. Modern people need to trace all former achievements going back to the origin of European culture or the oldest reference on related topics.
  He explained an example in case of philosophy when we were at the Cathedral of Lausanne. When a modern philosopher wants to write an article, he/she should make exhaustive surveys on major achievements of, for instance, Hegel, Kant, Aquinas and Platon to understand how modern philosophy has been developed in two thousand years. Based on such a review an author should be confident that his/her paper contains really original addition to the world of philosophy. Walter explained the story giving an example to see a high mountain through a telescope. A high mountain is a simile of modern structure of philosophy. When he/she looks a mountain of the modern structure of philosophy, he/she need to look mountains which were achieved by Hegel, Kant, Aquinas and Platon in the foreground.
2) Walter’s Interest in Japanese Culture
  Walter started lots of difficult debates with me on several fronts of Japanese culture. I recall typical examples of them.
  Walter loved noh play which was a classical stage art performed by exclusively by men to the accompaniment of recitative chants and orchestra of a Japanese style flute and drums. He had extensive information on distinct roles of noh masks and noh players, sometimes more than me.
  Walter also showed deep interest in names of martial arts or disciplines in Japan. For instance, “Judo”, “Kendo”, etc. carry the word “do” which literally means “way” in names. In Japan it is traditionally believed that hard training in martial arts, for instance, is composed of not only physical training but also mental training which brings about spiritual purism or stoic life. Hard training is considered a similar way of ascetic practices to reach the teaching of the Buddha. Not only in martial arts we can see similar names in everyday life in Japan, such as, “Sado (art of tea ceremony)” and “Kado (art of flower arrangement)”. In recent several decades Judo has developed to a popular international sport and original rules have been converted for an international combative sport.
  I shall never forget times with him in EPFL, World Congresses of IAHR and Tokyo.

Ana Maria Ferreira da Silva, Queen's University, Canada

It was with great sadness that I learned that Prof. Graf passed away. He leaves us with the memories of his truly colourful personality, and many papers and books that will continue to be obligatory and rather enjoyable reading for a long time. My sincere condolences to his family.

E.J. Hopfinger, LEGI, CNRS, Grenoble

With Prof. Walter Graf, the hydraulics community loses an eminent scientist and leader in the field. I had the privilege to work with Walter during my visits to EPFL as visiting Professor, working first on turbidity currents (together also with Mustafa Altinakar) and then on scouring (together with Ulrich Lemmin). What I appreciated most, were his rigour, scientific foresight and his ability to identify the key problems. The initiation of research on Lake Geneva is one striking example. Walter attached great importance to the transfer of knowledge through books written for researchers and students that have pedagogical value. These books are widely used e.g. “Hydraulics of Sediment Transport and “River Hydraulics” which is indeed an accomplishment. Walter encouraged the gathering of his group during the coffee breaks, where discussion were always lively and interesting, covering scientific and general topics, taking care that his Ph.D. students were included in these discussions. We together often discussed music because he was a great music lover and played piano himself. He told me that he took his son to Wagner operas when he was less than ten years old. I always looked forward to the visits to EPFL and the interactions with Walter. I do miss these times and shall never forget him.  

Ulrich Lemmin, EPFL, Switzerland

Colorful, outgoing, exuberant, and thought provoking !
 A unique personality.  But it was this strong character that successfully fueled Professor Walter H. Graf’s scientific career.
At the same time, he was a practical man, a caring father, an artist who surprised me many a year with a personally drawn black India ink sketch on a card cordially inviting my wife and me to share a heavenly Christmas dinner.
Who will be there?  Will there be many or just a few colleagues?  Who is the guest of honor?  The mystery was always there, as was the inevitable, intense, high voltage (and fascinating) debate that he would have with certain of the guests over some obscure philosophical or political concept.  And, that his wife, Christa, would eventually, gracefully, bring to an end with a sweet, "Oh, Walter.  That is enough.  Your food is getting cold, and Professor « Zhao » must try the delicious « pintade » before it flies away”. 
Bon appétit, Professor Graf!  I thank you not only for the lovely invitations, but foremost for having given me the opportunity to make Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) one of my favorite research subjects over the years.
Ulrich Lemmin
Ecological Engineering Laboratory (ECOL)
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)

Martin Bohle, European Commission, Belgium

Dear Colleagues this well focussed obituary provides the opportunity to stress, in memory of W.H. Graf, two particularities. First, his research interests ventured in many fields including the study of the dynamics of Lake Geneva (Le Leman), this wonderful lake that has been 'my office' for several years (1980-1986). That line of research is still alive at the EPFL. Second and as one of his PhD students, I like to stress the wide degree of freedom that he gave to conduct own research using the resources of the LYDREP. As a detail about 'the person'; my first talk at an international conference I had to rehearsal with him seven times, up to the point that it fitted well into the timeslot and gave an understandable and comprehensive message to the non-initiated. Dr. Martin Bohle

Christophe Ancey, EPFL, Switzerland

Our laboratory (hydraulics laboratory of EPFL) has been very saddened to learn of Prof. Graf's passing on June 27 2017, in his eighty-first year. Walter H. Graf led the hydraulic research laboratory (now called LHE) from 1973 to 2001, succeeding Alfred Stucky (1928-1958) and Daniel Bonnard (1958-1973), two professors essential to Swiss civil engineering and illustrious entrepreneurs of the Leman area. In this respect, Mr. Graf was one of the first foreign faculty members recruited to bring research to the new EPFL campus. His work covered many fields, including free surface hydraulics, turbidity currents, sediment transport, hydrodynamics of lakes (with Ulrich Lemmin). After his thesis under the supervision of Hans Albert Einstein (Albert's son) in Berkeley, he pioneered the study of the part played turbulence in sediment transport. He authored several books including several civil engineering textbooks with Mustafa Altinakar. His book "River Hydraulics" was translated and published by Wiley, and became a bible for many Swiss and foreign students. Professor Graf was awarded numerous honors. He was quite active after his retirement in 2001: he taught in China, India, and in France while remaining very close to EPFL. Christophe Ancey, on behalf of EPFL/LHE

Zhaosong QU, Sinfotek, Beijing

Working with Prof. Graf for 4 years more, he left me many memories on technology and human as Mr. Hager said. Wish him getting peace in heaven, and hope to know my name if we see each other in heaven somedays. 

Zhaosong Qu with Prof. Graf visiting Dujiangyan project in 2003

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