225 Years of Building Better Lives
header image
Share Your Story
Explorations in Science and Technology

Swanson: Engineering Product Simulations


How will heat transfer from one component to another? What is the most efficient shape for a given part? Before John A. Swanson, engineers had to complete tedious calculations to answer these questions.

Swanson envisioned a versatile, integrated computer program that could answer a wide array of engineering questions. When his employer wouldn’t let him pursue it, Swanson quit and launched his own company. Founded in 1970, only four years after he graduated from Pitt's School of Engineering with his PhD, the company—ANSYS, Inc.—markets a software code that Swanson created for use by aerospace, automotive, biomedical, manufacturing, and electronics industries to simulate how product design will behave in real-work environments.

In 2004, Swanson joined the likes of Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Orville Wright in receiving the American Association of Engineering Societies' John Fritz Medal, the highest award in the engineering profession. In 2007, Swanson (by then a Pitt trustee) donated $41.3 million to the engineering school. In recognition of his generosity, the University renamed the school the John A. Swanson School of Engineering.