By Matthew Chin

Christian N.J. Wagner, a UCLA professor emeritus of materials science and engineering, died on Dec. 31, 2012, at his home in Palm Desert. He was 85. Wagner was internationally known for research on the structure of liquid, amorphous and nanocrystalline materials, and on residual stresses in plastically deformed materials.

Born in Germany, Wagner received his bachelor’s degree in France and his master’s degree in materials technology from the Saarland University, in Saarbrücken, Germany, in 1954. Following his master’s, he spent two years at MIT as a visiting fellow. Wagner returned to Germany and received his doctorate from Saarland in 1957.

Wagner emigrated to the United States in 1959, joining Yale University’s Metallurgy Department as an assistant professor. He was promoted to associate professor in 1962. Wagner became a U.S. citizen in 1969.

In 1970, Wagner joined the Materials Department at UCLA Engineering as a full professor. He served as chair of the department from 1974 to 1979, and as acting department chair in the 1990-91 academic year. Wagner also served as the engineering school’s assistant dean for undergraduate studies from 1982 to 1985, and was elected chair of the faculty of the school for the two-year term 1989-91. He retired that year.

Wagner was a truly uncompromising scientist, his colleagues said. He pushed to its limits the ability of x-ray diffraction to determine atomic arrangements in metallic liquids and glasses, as well as the details of microstructural defects in crystalline alloys at the nanocrystalline level of resolution before synchrotron radiation became a standard part of the diffractionists’ toolkit.

He was a fellow of ASM International and a member of the Minerals, Metals and Materials Society (TMS), the American Physical Society, the American Crystallographic Association, the Materials Research Society, Sigma Xi and Tau Beta Pi.

In 1972, Wagner received the Distinguished Faculty Award from the UCLA Engineering Alumni Association, and in 1989 he received the Senior U.S. Scientist Award (Humboldt Award) of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, based in Bonn, Germany.

Wagner was preceded in death by his wife Rosemarie, who died in 2008. He is survived by his son Thomas M. Wagner of Redondo Beach ; daughters Karla R. Mardesich Wagner, of Palm Desert, and Petra Wolfe, of Los Angeles; three grandchildren and a sister, Herta Steinbach of Germany.