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Charles Birnstiel

Charles Birnstiel 1929-2024

Esteemed Professor, bridge engineer, and author Dr. Charles Birnstiel passed away on March 11th at the age of 94.

Charles was born on December 6, 1929, in Manhattan, NY, to German immigrants Karl and Margarete Birnstiel. After attending public grade schools in East Harlem, Charles studied at Brooklyn Technical High School, and then at New York University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, A Master of Science in Civil Engineering, and a Doctorate Degree in Structural Engineering.

Following his graduation, Charles devoted himself to teaching and structural mechanics research as a professor at both New York University and Polytechnic University. After 20 years in academia, he transitioned into private practice, leading a multidisciplinary engineering firm specializing in the design, inspection, and testing of moveable bridge machinery. He continued to teach during this time, holding adjunct positions at Colombia University, Cooper Union, Manhattan College, and Pratt Institute. After another 23 years, in 1997, Charles joined Hardesty & Hanover as principal associate, where he practiced until his retirement in 2014.

He remained active in retirement, continuing to apply his expertise as a consultant and author. In 2017, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for Bridge Engineering by the NY Bridge Conference and the Bridge Engineering Association.

Charles maintained a lifelong pride in his German heritage, contributing to the German Society of Pennsylvania, helping to establish the German Institute at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, and with his sister Margaret, funding the Birnstiel-Heckel scholarship there as well.

Dr Birnstiel was active on technical committees of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). He was chairman of the ASCE Standards Committee responsible for the ASCE/SEI 19-10 Structural Applications of Steel Cables for Buildings Standard. He was an emeritus member of the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA) Committee 15 – Bridges and participated for many years in updating the AREMA Manual for Railway Engineering - a recommended practice. He was a licensed professional engineer in 13 states and a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers (FICE) and of ASCE.

During his long and illustrious career Charles was an indispensable part of the New York City bridge community whose legacy lives on in generations of engineers. Charles is survived by his sister, Margaret Birnstiel, cousins Nell and Susan (Bob), Sharon and Gretl, George (Bianca) and Gisela (Klaus).

The Visitation will be held on Tuesday March 26, 2024 from 2:00pm until services at 3:00 pm at Advent Lutheran Church, 45 Worthington Mill Rd, Richboro, PA 18954. Interment will be on March 27, 2024 11:00 am at All Faiths Cemetery in Middle Village, NY. All friends and family are welcome.

In lieu of flowers, you may make donations to:

Alley Cat Allies, 7920 Norfolk Ave Suite 600, Bethesda, MD 20814

Best Friends Animal Society, 5001 Angel Canyon Road, Kanab, UT 84741

Bide-a- Wee, 410 East 38 Street, New York, NY 10016

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Service/Memorial Information
  • Morning Visitation

    Tuesday, March 26th, 2024
    2:00 PM - 3:00 PM

    Advent Lutheran Church
    45 Worthington Mill Road
    Richboro, PA 18954

  • Funeral Service

    Tuesday, March 26th, 2024
    3:00 PM

    Advent Lutheran Church
    45 Worthington Mill Road
    Richboro, PA 18954

  • Interment

    Wednesday, March 27th, 2024
    11:00 AM

    All Faiths Cemetery
    67-29 Metropolitan Avenue
    Middle Village, NY 11379

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