Theodore von Krmn – Biography of Theodore von Krmn

Born May 11, 1881 in Budapest, Theodore von Kármán was a Hungarian-born American research engineer, best known for his pioneering work in the use of mathematics and the basic sciences in aeronautics and astronautics. His laboratory at the California Institute of Technology later became the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Von Kármán He was the third of the five children of Maurice and Helene von Kármán. His father, a professor at the University of Budapest and commissioner of the Ministry of Education, reformed the country’s secondary education system and founded the Minta (Model) Gymnasium, which his son attended, as did atomic physicists George de Hevesy and Leo. Szilard. Von Kármán He showed a natural knack for mathematics at an early age and was on his way to becoming a child prodigy when his father, fearing that he would become a mathematical freak, guided him into engineering.

Upon completing his undergraduate studies in 1902 at the Royal Polytechnic University of Budapest, he decided to pursue his engineering career in academia, which would enable him to fulfill his broad scientific interests and practice the art of teaching, which his father had inspired in he. In later years, he was delighted when the engineers to whom he had imparted his scientific attitude and methodological approach recognized him as their teacher.

Between 1903 and 1906 he worked on the faculty of the Polytechnic University and as a consultant to the leading Hungarian engine manufacturer. The research you conducted von Kármán on the strength of materials paved the way for important later contributions to the design of aircraft structures. He was awarded a two-year fellowship at the University of Göttingen, Germany, to obtain a Ph.D., but before completing it he went to the University of Paris. There, after an all-night party, a friend suggested that instead of going to sleep, they watch French aviation pioneer Henri Farman fly his machine. Farman successfully completed a 2 km (1.25 mile) course, unknowingly providing inspiration for the young man who would become a founder of the aeronautical and astronautical sciences.

Soon after, Ludwig Prandtl, a pioneer of modern fluid mechanics, invited von Kármán to return to Göttingen as his airship research assistant and complete his degree. The environment at the university was admirably suited to developing the talents of von Kármán. It responded, in particular, to the school of the eminent mathematician Felix Klein, which emphasized the fuller use of mathematics and the basic sciences in engineering to increase technological efficiency.

In 1912, after a short stay at the College of Mining Engineering in Hungary, he became director of the Aeronautical Institute of Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle), Germany, remaining until 1930. In the First World War he was called to service while at the Fischamend Military Aircraft Factory in Austria, led the development of the first ground-tied helicopter that was able to maintain hovering flight. After the war, as his international reputation grew, so did that of the institute. The students came from many countries, drawn by the intellectual and social atmosphere it had created. To help re-establish contacts and friendships broken by the war, he was instrumental in convening an international congress on aerodynamics and hydrodynamics in Innsbruck, Austria, in 1922. This meeting resulted in the formation of the International Congress Committee for Applied Mechanics, which continues to organize congresses every four years, and gave birth, in 1946, to the International Union of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, with von Kármán as honorary president.

Von Kármán never married. His mother and sister, Josephine, lived with him from 1923 onwards in the Netherlands near Aachen and later in Pasadena, California. His sister was his manager and hostess until her death in 1951 in the United States. Brother and sister were devoted to each other, and his death plunged von Kármán into a deep depression for several months, during which he was unable to work.

He began to travel widely in the 1920s as a teacher and consultant for the industry. After his first visit to the United States in 1926, he was invited in 1930 to assume the leadership of the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology (GALCIT) and the Guggenheim Aircraft Institute in Akron, Ohio. His love for Aachen made him hesitate, but the dark shadow of German Nazism made him accept. He never regretted his decision. When President John F. Kennedy awarded him the first National Medal of Science in 1963, “promised his brain as long as it lasted“to the country of which he had become a citizen in 1936.

Shortly after his arrival at the California Institute of Technology, his laboratory once again became a world mecca for aeronautical sciences. Two years later he became a founder of the US Institute of Aeronautical Sciences, a consultant to various US industries and the government. His personal scientific work continued unabated with important contributions to fluid mechanics, turbulence theory, supersonic flight, engineering mathematics, aircraft structures, and wind soil erosion.

His open-mindedness was well demonstrated by his involvement in the development of astronautics. In 1936, despite general disbelief in academic circles about the possibilities of rocket propulsion and its applications, he supported the interest of a group of his students in the subject. Within two years, the US Army Air Corps sponsored a project in its laboratory on the use of rockets to provide superior performance to conventional aircraft, especially to reduce their take-off distance from the ground and from naval aircraft carriers.

In 1940, von Kármán, together with Frank J. Malina, showed for the first time since the invention of the black powder rocket in China in the 10th century that it was possible to design a stable, long-lasting, solid-propellant rocket. Soon after, the prototype of the famous jet-assisted takeoff rocket (JATO) was built. This became the prototype for the rocket engines used in today’s long-range missiles, such as the Polaris, Minuteman, and Poseidon of the US armed forces.

In 1941, von Kármán participated in the founding of Aerojet General Corporation, the first American manufacturer of solid and liquid rocket engines. In 1944 he became the co-founder of NASA’s current Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology when he undertook the first government program of long-range missile research and space exploration for the US Department of Ordnance. .

When he left the institute in 1944 to establish in Washington, DC, the Scientific Advisory Group to General Henry H. Arnold, commander of the US Army air forces in World War II, von Kármán He was able to recall his involvement in a number of important contributions to rocket technology: America’s first assisted takeoff of solid and liquid propellant rockets, the flight of a rocket-powered aircraft only, and the development of spontaneously ignited liquid propellants. the type that would be used in the Apollo Command and Lunar Excursion modules some 25 years later.

The personality must also take into account your non-scientific talents. He was very interested in poetry and literature and could always provide an appropriate story for any occasion. When the atmosphere became tense at a scientific meeting, he could restore the balance by drawing on his collection of anecdotes. He was optimistic and believed in the future, despite the difficulties in the world.