“The West had William Tell and the East had Yang Man-Choon in Korea”
When Kyung-Suk Kim, a renowned Korean-American scientist
and professor of mechanical engineering at Brown University,
says this in his class Dynamics and Vibrations, a required course for
engineering students, students are generally puzzled.
Kim`s students, however, pay attention to his lecture that combines history with physics and mechanical engineering if he says, “I will explain the principle of bow’s operations in a mechanical engineering
point of view. The Korean bow is considered to be the best in the world from an
engineering perspective, which you can confirm through experiments.”
Since 1989, Kim has taught mechanical engineering at Brown University,
a prestigious Ivy League university in the U.S., with a laboratory text he wrote
himself. More than 1,000 students have attended his lectures and 25 students
have completed doctoral and postdoctoral studies under his advising over the
years. Indeed, Kim has played the role of missionary for the promotion of
Korea`s scientific excellence in its culture.
Speaking to the Dong-A Ilbo, a Korean news paper, over
the phone Sunday, he said, “In the early 1990s, Brown University
suggested me to develop a laboratory for engineering students that reflects some
aspects of humanities and history. So I began working on developing such
laboratory courses that bring in scientific excellence of Korean culture.”
Through experiments, Kim and his students have unveiled
the secret of an ancient Korean bow that flies arrows up to nearly 1 kilometer,
twice and three times the range of British and Japanese bows, though the
bowstring is just 120 centimeters, shorter than Britain`s (180 centimeters) and
Japan’s (2 meters). Kim showed that the Korean bow has a thrust of double
pushes while launched, analogous to the thrust of a two-staged rocket.
Many had thought Korean bowstrings too short since
Koreans have small frames. Kim, however, said the short bowstring creates great
impellent power by the double-push mechanism and Korean bows bend to increase
After completing graduate studies at Seoul National University, Kim went to the U.S. in 1976 for his PhD. He joined the Brown faculty in 1989 as a full professor. As the Director of the Nano and Micro Mechanics Laboratory at Brown, he received world attention last year with an article on the principle of precisely cutting carbon nano tubes using ultrasonic waves, written jointly with his collaborators at the Korean Institute of Science and Technology. The
article was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, London.
- Courtesy of the Dong-A Ilbo (Korea)