Today, May 6, 1963, commemorates Theodore von Karmann, the twentieth-century master of aerodynamics, who is majoring in aeronautics. Information: Ramesh, Assistant Professor of Physics, Nehru Memorial College, Puthanampatti, Trichy.

Today, May 6, 1963, commemorates Theodore von Karmann, the twentieth-century master of aerodynamics, who is majoring in aeronautics.
Information: Ramesh, Assistant Professor of Physics, Nehru Memorial College, Puthanampatti, Trichy.

Theodore von Karman was born on 11 May 1881 in Hungary to a Jewish family. One of his ancestors was Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel. He studied engineering at the city's Royal Joseph Technical University, known today as Budapest University of Technology and Economics. After graduating in 1902 he moved to the German Empire and joined Ludwig Prandtl at the University of Gottingen, where he received his doctorate in 1908. He taught at Gottingen for four years. In 1912 he accepted a position as director of the Aeronautical Institute at RWTH Aachen University, a leading German university. His time at RWTH Aachen was interrupted by service in the Austro-Hungarian Army from 1915 to 1918, when he designed the Petroczy-Karmán-Zurovec, an early helicopter.

After the war he returned to Aachen with his mother and sister Josephine de Karman. Some of his students took an interest in gliding and saw the competitions of the Rhon-Rossitten Gesellschaft as an opportunity to advance in aeronautics. Karman engaged Wolfgang Klemperer to design a competitive glider. Josephine encouraged Theodore to expand his science beyond national boundaries. They organized the first international conference in mechanics held in September 1922 in Innsbruck. Subsequent conferences were organized as the International Union of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics. Karman left his post at RWTH Aachen in 1930.

Apprehensive about developments in Europe, in 1930 Karman accepted the directorship of the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology (GALCIT). The directorship included provision for a research assistant, and he selected Frank Wattendorf, an American who had been studying for three years in Aachen. Another student Ernest Edwin Sechler took up the problem of making reliable airframes for aircraft, and with Kármán's support, developed an understanding of aeroelasticity.

In 1936, Karman engaged the legal services of Andrew G. Haley to form the Aerojet Corporation, with his graduate student Frank Malina and their experimental rocketry collaborator Jack Parsons, to manufacture JATO rocket motors. He later became a naturalized citizen of the United States. German activity during World War II increased US military interest in rocket research. In early 1943, the Experimental Engineering Division of the United States Army Air Forces Material Command forwarded to Kármán reports from British intelligence sources describing German rockets capable of travelling more than 100 miles (160 km). In a letter dated 2 August 1943 Karman provided the Army with his analysis of and comments on the German program.

In 1944 he and others affiliated with GALCIT founded the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is now a Federally funded research and development center managed and operated by Caltech under a contract from NASA. In 1946 he became the first chairman of the Scientific Advisory Group which studied aeronautical technologies for the United States Army Air Forces. He also helped found AGARD, the NATO aerodynamics research oversight group (1951), the International Council of the Aeronautical Sciences (1956), the International Academy of Astronautics (1960), and the Von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics in Sint-Genesius-Rode, south of Brussels (1956). He eventually became an important figure in supersonic motion, noting in a seminal paper that aeronautical engineers were "pounding hard on the closed door leading into the field of supersonic motion.

In June 1944, Karman underwent surgery for intestinal cancer in New York City. The surgery caused two hernias, and Kármán's recovery was slow. Early in September, while still in New York, he met US Army Air Forces Commanding General Henry H. Arnold on a runway at LaGuardia Airport, and Arnold then proposed that Karman should move to Washington, D.C. to lead the Scientific Advisory Group and become a long-range planning consultant to the military. Karman returned to Pasadena around mid-September, was appointed to the SAG position on October 23, 1944, and left Caltech in December 1944.

At the age of 81 Karman was the recipient of the first National Medal of Science, bestowed in a White House ceremony by President John F. Kennedy. He was recognized, "For his leadership in the science and engineering basic to aeronautics; for his effective teaching and related contributions in many fields of mechanics, for his distinguished counsel to the Armed Services, and for his promoting international cooperation in science and engineering. Karman never married. He died on a trip to Aachen, Germany, in 1963, and his body was returned to the United States, to be entombed in the Beth Olam Mausoleum at what is now the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. He has sometimes been described as one of The Martians. Karman's fame was in the use of mathematical tools to study fluid flow, and the interpretation of those results to guide practical designs. He was instrumental in recognizing the importance of swept-back wings ubiquitous in modern jet aircraft.

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