Chief engineer for the Delaware River Bridge Joint Commission, Ralph Modjeski was born in Cracow, Poland, to theatrical producer Gustav Modjeski and actress Helena Opid Modjeska. (Both mother and son had changed their names when they came to the United. The original family name was Modrzejewski.) He came to the United States in 1876 with his mother and step-father but returned to Europe to pursue his interest in engineering. Modjeski graduated from the Ecole des Ponts et Chaussees in 1885 with his degree in civil engineering. One of his first jobs in the United States was with the bridge engineer George S. Morison, but by 1893 he had opened his own office in Chicago and by 1894 was at work on the seven-span railroad and highway bridge intended to cross the Mississippi River at Rock Island, IL.
He received the Franklin Gold Medal from the Franklin Institute and was made an Honorary Member of the Engineers Club in Philadelphia. In 1911 he received an honorary degree from the University of Illinois, in 1927 another came from the Pennsylvania Military College, and in 1930 a third came from the Polytechic Institute of Lwow, Poland.
Modjeski was equally talented as a pianist and, in fact, had considered pursuing music as a career.
Sandra L. Tatman.
Clubs and Membership Organizations
- Engineers Club
- Chicago Art Institute
- Engineers Club of New York
- Ecole des Ponts et Chaussees (France)
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