Fritz Leonhardt was born in Stuttgart, Germany in 1909. He graduated from Stuttgart University and also studied at Purdue University in the USA. In 1934 he joined the German Highway Administration and was appointed at the remarkably young age of 28 as the Chief Engineer for the Cologne-Rodenkirchen Bridge.
He has received numerous honorary doctorates and degrees from universities and is recognised as one of the great post World War II engineers for his innovation in the use of prestressed beam concrete, metal girder bridges and cable stayed bridges. Throughout his career he dedicated a lot of his time to research in design and construction. His research extended to launching a system for prestressed concrete bridges, the development of a cable system and anchor roofs, and experiments with steel orthotropic decks.
Leonhardt submitted one of the first designs for a suspension bridge which incorporated a box girder. This proposal was for crossing the River Tagus in Lisbon in 1950 but he did not win the tender. He worked on a number of cable stayed bridges including Zarante Bravo Largo Bridge in Argentina, Pasco Kennelwick Bridge (1978) in USA and the Helgeland Bridge (1981) in Norway.
In 1999 on his 90th Birthday a prize was established in his name to recognise outstanding achievements in structural engineering. This prize has been awarded to such eminent designers as Michel Virlogeux, Jorg Schlaich, Rene Walter and William F. Baker.
He died in 1999.