Leader in Biomechanics Dies

Duke’s Steven Vogel studied how plants and animals adapt to the physical world.

Kerry Grens
Dec 1, 2015

LES TODD, DUKE PHOTOGRAPHYSteven Vogel, a Duke University researcher who helped launch the field of biomechanics, passed away last week (November 24). He was 75.

Vogel was known for his creativity and resourcefulness, inventing his own experimental contraptions and raising funds for research rather than applying for grants. “Nobody excelled at getting more science per unit budget than Vogel,” former colleague and entrepreneur Chuck Pell said in an obituary in Duke Today. “He once set himself a budget of five dollars to answer a research question. He did it for less than half of that.”

Vogel studied a wide variety of organisms in myriad conditions, primarily to understand how they adapt to fluid forces, such as wind or waves. According to his web page, “he has worked on such things as the design of fly wings for producing lift and of moth antennae for transmitting air.”

After earning his PhD from Harvard University in 1966, Vogel joined Duke and spent the rest of his career there until retiring in 2006. During his research career he penned 10 books.

Vogel is survived by his wife, son, daughter-in-law, sister, and three grandchildren.