Von Kármán, Theodore, 1881-1963

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Aeronautical engineer (aeronautics, physics, applied mathematics), science advisor, and first director of the Daniel Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory at Caltech.

From the description of Papers, 1871-1963. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 81407179

Physicist.

From the description of Reminiscences of Theodore Von Kármán : oral history, 1960. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 122632066

Aeronautical engineer, science advisor, and first director of the Daniel Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory at Caltech.

From the description of Papers, Ca. 1899-1968. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 84429920

Born in Hungary in 1881, Theodore Von Kármán received his doctorate in 1908 from the University of Gottingen. He taught there for four years, worked at the Aeronautical Institute at Aachen, and then served in the Austro-Hungarian Army for three years, during which time he designed an early helicopter. He emigrated to the United States in 1930 to become the director of the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology (GALCIT), which is now known as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. As an engineer and physicist, Von Kármán is most well known for the discovery of the "Von Kármán Vortex Street" which mathematically describes the flow of a fluid around a cylinder. This "flow" has many practical designs and was used by the military in designing modern jet aircraft. In 1944, Von Kármán became the first chairman of the Scientific Advisory Group in Washington, D.C. and he became a regular consultant to the United States military, advising on advances in aviation and rockets. Von Kármán was the first recipient of the National Medal of Science, an honor he received from President John F. Kennedy at the age of eighty-one. Shortly thereafter, Theodore Von Kármán died in Aachen, Germany, in May of 1963. His body was brought back to the United States for burial in Pasadena, California.

From the description of Theodore Von Kármán, 1881-1973. (US Air Force Academy). WorldCat record id: 643074511

Chronology

  • 1881 May 11: Theodore von Kármán born in Budapest (Hungary), son of Maurice (Mór) Kármán and Helene Kármán (née Kohn)
  • 1898: von Kármán enters The Royal Joseph Technical University, Budapest
  • 1902: receives degree in mechanical engineering from The Royal Joseph
  • 1903 - 1906 : joins the firm of Ganz and Company in Budapest as a consulting engineer; accepts position as assistant professor of hydraulics at The Royal Joseph
  • 1906: wins a two-year fellowship to Göttingen; attends lectures by David Hilbert, Felix Klein, and Ludwig Prandtl
  • 1907: sees his first airplane flights near Paris
  • 1908: writes dissertation on the buckling of columns and receives doctor's degree from the University of Göttingen
  • 1908 - 1912 : receives appointment as privatdocent at Göttingen
  • 1911: studies the stability of vortex patterns that form behind stationary bodies in flowing fluids ("Kármán vortex street")
  • 1912 - 1913 : von Kármán turns to a problem in solid state physics; he and Max Born analyze the lattice dynamics of a crystal and deduce the spectrum of frequencies in a solid. Next, they apply Einstein's 1907 paper on the heat capacity of solids to their model of crystalline lattice vibrations
  • 1913: moves to Aachen as professor of mechanics and aeronautics at the Technische Hochschule and director of the Aerodynamics Institute
  • 1914 - 1918 : military service in the Austro-Hungarian Army; becomes head of the experimental division of the Aviation Corps; collaborates with Wilhelm Zurovec on design of first stable hovering captive helicopter
  • 1915 Oct 15: father dies in Budapest
  • 1919: returns to Technische Hochschule, Aachen
  • 1922: organizes with Tullio Levi-Civita a scientific conference in Innsbruck devoted to aerodynamics and hydrodynamics
  • 1924: lectures on the stability of laminar flow and turbulence at the First International Congress on Applied Mechanics at Delft; General Aerodynamic Theory, 2 vols. (with J. M. Burgers)
  • 1926 Sept 24: makes his first visit to the United States under the auspices of the Daniel Guggenheim Fund; serves as consultant on the design of new aeronautics laboratory and wind tunnel at Caltech
  • 1927: visits Japan; advisor to Kawanishi airplane company; designs country's first industrial wind tunnel
  • 1928 - 1930 : two more visits to the United States
  • 1930: von Kármán returns to the problem of turbulence; he succeeds in deriving a logarithmic formula for turbulent skin friction, announces results at Göttingen and at Third International Congress of Applied Mechanics at Stockholm
  • 1930 Oct 1: appointment as professor of aeronautics, director of the Daniel Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology (GALCIT), and director of the Daniel Guggenheim Airstrip Institute at Akron, Ohio
  • 1932: founding member, Institute of Aeronautical Sciences
  • 1934: founding member, hydraulic machinery laboratory for research on centrifugal pumps; consultant, Metropolitan Water District of Los Angeles
  • 1935: presents fundamental paper analyzing from a variety of viewpoints the problem of resistance at subsonic and supersonic speeds, Fifth Volta Congress, Rome
  • 1936: acquires USA citizenship; GALCIT Rocket Research Project begins
  • 1937: visits Russia, China, and Japan; Wilbur Wright Lecture, Royal Aeronautical Society
  • 1938: election to National Academy of Sciences; publishes definitive paper (with L. Howarth) on statistical theory of isotropic turbulence
  • 1939: Joseph Willard Gibbs lecturer ("The Engineer Grapples with Nonlinear Problems"), American Mathematical Society, Columbus, Ohio
  • 1939 Apr 18: von Kármán proposes a Jet Propulsion Experimental Station in the Arroyo Seco
  • July 1: Special Committee of the National Academy of Sciences for Air Corps research initiates jet propulsion research program (GALCIT Project, No. 1) under von Kármán's direction; aerodynamic consultant, Smith-Putnam Wind Turbine
  • 1939 - 1952 : consultant, U.S. Army Air Corps
  • 1940: Mathematical Methods in Engineering (with M.A. Biot)
  • 1941: aerodynamic consultant, Tacoma Narrows Bridge Consulting Board
  • 1941 May 11: Theodore von Kármán Anniversary Volume, in honor of Theodore's 60th birthday
  • 1941 June: mother dies in Pasadena
  • 1942: joins five colleagues in forming the Aerojet Engineering Corporation
  • 1944 Oct 23: appointment as expert consultant to General Henry H. Arnold, Commanding General of the Army Air Forces; organizes and directs U.S. Air Force Scientific Advisory Group (SAG)
  • 1944 Nov 1: Jet Propulsion Laboratory formally created; von Kármán prepares to turn leadership of the Laboratory over to JPL Executive Board
  • 1945: leads other SAG members on inspection tour of European aeronautics centers
  • 1945: Where We Stand, von Kármán's post-tour report to AAF Scientific Advisory Group on technical developments in air warfare during World War II; also, writes Science, The Key to Air Supremacy, the introductory volume of the Group's long-range report, "Toward New Horizons"
  • 1946: receives the U.S. Medal for Merit
  • 1946 - 1954 : chairman, Scientific Advisory Board, U.S. Air Force
  • 1946: foreign member, The Royal Society
  • 1949: professor emeritus, California Institute of Technology
  • 1951: organizes the NATO Advisory Group for Aeronautical Research and Development (AGARD)
  • 1951 - 1963 : chairman, AGARD
  • 1951 July 2: sister dies in Pasadena
  • 1954: Aerodynamics: Selected Topics in the Light of Their Historical Development, the 1953 Messenger Lectures, Cornell University
  • 1954: chairman emeritus, Scientific Advisory Board, USAF
  • 1955: Selected Papers on Engineering Mechanics, an anniversary volume prepared by Aachen colleagues in honor of Theodore's 70th birthday
  • 1961 May 11: symposium, organized by the Institute of the Aerospace Sciences, New York, in honor of Theodore's 80th birthday; proceedings are published in 1962
  • 1963 Feb 8: recipient of the first U.S. National Medal of Science
  • 1963 May 7: dies in Aachen

From the guide to the Theodore von Kármán papers, 1871-1963, (California Institute of Technology. Archives.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Von Kármán, Theodore, 1881-1963. Papers, 1871-1963. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Smith, Apollo M. O. (Apollo Milton Olin), 1911-1997,. Interview with Apollo M. O. Smith (interviewee) / by Benjamin Zibit (interviewer) 1996 July 24. Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library and Archives
referencedIn Stanford S. Penner Papers, 1938 - 1998 University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
referencedIn Malina, Frank J. Frank J. Malina papers, 1927-1986. Library of Congress
referencedIn Born, Max, 1882-1970. Journey to Russia, 1945. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf von Kármán, Theodore, 1881-1963. Assisted take-off of aircraft : book review, 1951 Jun. Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library and Archives
referencedIn Malkin, J. Papers, 1926-1933. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
creatorOf von Kármán, Theodore, 1881-1963. Comparative study of the jet propulsion systems as applied to missiles and transonic aircraft : memo JPL-2, 1944 Mar 2. Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library and Archives
creatorOf von Kármán, Theodore, 1881-1963. Proposed athodyd test facilities and research program for 1944-45 : proposal JPL-1, 1944, Feb 28. Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library and Archives
creatorOf Barrett, Edward C. GALCIT one project : general correspondence, 1942-1944. Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library and Archives
referencedIn Enrico Volterra Papers, 1910-2009, bulk 1930-1973 California Institute of Technology. Caltech Archives.
creatorOf Tsien, Hsue-shen, 1911-2009. Hsue-shen Tsien : published articles, 1938-1958. Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library and Archives
creatorOf Von Kármán, Theodore, 1881-1963. Theodore Von Kármán, 1881-1973. US Air Force Academy, McDermott Library
creatorOf Von Kármán, Theodore, 1881-1963. Papers, Ca. 1899-1968. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Herzfeld, Karl F. (Karl Ferdinand), 1892-. Oral history interview with Karl F. Herzfeld, 1978 May 11. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Robert Andrews Millikan papers, 1821-1953 California Institute of Technology. Archives.
referencedIn Millikan, Robert Andrews, 1868-1953. Papers [microform], 1847-1953. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Aerojet-General Corporation. The first twenty years [sound recording] / narrated by William E. Zisch, produced by Richard L. Spears. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Pickering, William H., 1910-2004. William H. Pickering Speech Collection, 1955-1975. Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library and Archives
referencedIn Epstein, Paul Sophus, 1883-1966. Oral history interview with Paul Sophus Epstein, 1962 May 25 to 2 June. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Burgers, J. M. (Johannes Martinus), 1895-. Papers, ca. 1912-1980. American Institute of Physics
referencedIn Elsasser, Walter M., 1904-. Oral history interview with Walter M. Elsasser, 1986 March 12. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Stanislaw M. Ulam Papers, 1916-1984 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Burgers, J. M. (Johannes Martinus), 1895-. Papers. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Dryden, Hugh L. (Hugh Latimer), 1898-1965. Hugh Latimer Dryden papers, 1908-1966. Johns Hopkins University, Sheridan Libraries and the Milton S. Eisenhower Library
referencedIn Lee A. DuBridge papers, 1932-1986 California Institute of Technology. Archives.
referencedIn Amneus, John ,. Interview with John Amneus / by John Bluth. Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library and Archives
creatorOf Von Kármán, Theodore, 1881-1963. Oral history interview with Theodore Von Karman, 1962 June 29. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Stern, Marvin, 1935-1974. Oral history interview with Marvin Stern, 1987 May 1. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Charney, Jule G. Oral history interview with Jule G. Charney, 1980 August 25 to 28. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Henry Harley Arnold Papers, 1903-1963, (bulk 1940-1946) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Penner, S. S. S.S. Penner papers, 1938-1998. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
creatorOf Von Kármán, Theodore, 1881-1963. Similarity of turbulent flow. Water Resources Collections and Archives, WRCA
referencedIn Courant, Richard, 1888-1972. Oral history interview with Richard Courant, 1962 May 9. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf von Kármán, Theodore, 1881-1963. JPL-4 correspondence, 1944 Feb 28-1948 Apr 6. Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library and Archives
creatorOf Von Kármán, Theodore, 1881-1963. Reminiscences of Theodore Von Kármán : oral history, 1960. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Hall, R. Cargill 1937-. Theodore Von Karman, 1881-1963, 1968 Sep 3. Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library and Archives
referencedIn Frank J. Malina Papers, 1912-1986 Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Arthur T. Ippen papers, 1925-1978 Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Institute Archives and Special Collections
referencedIn Michael S. Mahoney papers., 1923-2008 University of Minnesota Libraries. Charles Babbage Institute. [cbi]
referencedIn Archive for the History of Quantum Physics, 1898-1950 (bulk), 1898-1950 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Smith, Apollo M. O. (Apollo Milton Olin), 1911-1997,. Interview with Apollo M. O. Smith (interviewee) / by John Bluth and Frank Semarano (interviewer) 1996 April 26. Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library and Archives
referencedIn Levy, Gabor B. Von Karman's family : Letter to Norman L. Chalfin, 1970 Dec 28. Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library and Archives
referencedIn Galcit project no. 1 : Organizational chart , 1943 May 24. Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library and Archives
creatorOf von Kármán, Theodore, 1881-1963. Long-range rocket projectiles : memo JPL-1, correspondence, 1963. Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library and Archives
referencedIn Collection of offprints and reprints received by Theodore von Kármán, 1903-1963. University of California, Los Angeles
creatorOf von Kármán, Theodore, 1881-1963. Proposal for theoretical analyses of athodyd propulsion and its applications for the AAF Materiel Center : proposal JPL-2, 1944 Apr 5. Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library and Archives
creatorOf Von Kármán, Theodore, 1881-1963. Karman's notes on fluid mechanics / [Theodore Von Karman]. California Institute of Technology, Caltech Library
referencedIn Malina, Frank J., 1912-1981. America's first long range missile and space exploration program : the ORCIT project of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory : manuscript and article, 1972 Aug 10. Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library and Archives
referencedIn Elsasser, Walter M., 1904-. Oral history interview with Walter M. Elsasser, 1985 November 21. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf von Kármán, Theodore, 1881-1963. Evaluation of British intelligence reports : Letter to Commanding General AAF Materiel Center, 1945 Aug 2. Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library and Archives
referencedIn DuBridge, Lee A. (Lee Alvin), 1901-1994. Papers, 1932-1986. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf von Kármán, Theodore, 1881-1963. Proposal for a jet propulsion experimental station at GALCIT : proposal, 1939 Apr 18. Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library and Archives
referencedIn Hall, R. Cargill 1937-. Theodore von Kármán : articles, and reports 1955-1974. Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library and Archives
referencedIn Millikan, Robert Andrews, 1868-1953. Papers, 1847-1953. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Busemann, Adolf, 1901-. Oral history interview with Adolf Busemann, 1979 Summer. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Theodore von Kármán papers, 1871-1963 California Institute of Technology. Archives.
creatorOf Pickering, William H., 1910-2004. William H. Pickering Office File Collection, 1955-1976. Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library and Archives
referencedIn Born, Max, 1882-1970. Oral history interview with Max Born, 1960 June to 18 October 1962. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Jet Propulsion Laboratory (U.S.). Photolab. Theodore von Kármán, Founder of JPL, 1957 [photograph]. Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library and Archives
creatorOf Burgers, J. M. (Johannes Martinus), 1895-. Papers of Johannes Martinus Burgers, 1912-1980. University of Maryland Libraries, UMD Libraries
creatorOf von Kármán, Theodore, 1881-1963. GALCIT project no. 1 : proposals, 1939 Jan 13 - 1949 Nov 16. Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library and Archives
creatorOf Von Kármán, Theodore, 1881-1963. Correlation coefficients for velocity measurements in Mississippi River at Burlington, Iowa / prepared under direction of Professor Th. von Karman. Water Resources Collections and Archives, WRCA
creatorOf von Kármán, Theodore, 1881-1963. Research program for the second type of long-range jet propelled missile (XF30L 20,000) : report, 1944, Aug 20. Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library and Archives
referencedIn Nead, Melba. Reminiscences of California Institute of Technology Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory, GALCIT No.1 later JPL : memo from Melba Nead to Kyky Chapman, 5 Nov 1991. Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library and Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
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correspondedWith Arnold, Henry Harley, 1886-1950 person
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associatedWith Becquerel, Jean, 1878-1953 person
associatedWith Benedicks, Carl Axel Fredrik, 1875-1953 person
associatedWith Berliner, Arnold, 1862-1942 person
associatedWith Birge, Raymond T., (Raymond Thayer), 1887-1980 person
associatedWith Blumenthal, Otto, 1876-1944 person
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associatedWith California Institute of Technology Daniel Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory. corporateBody
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associatedWith Charney, Jule G. person
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associatedWith Cockcroft, John, Sir, 1897-1967 person
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associatedWith Courant, Richard, 1888-1972. person
associatedWith Darwin, Charles Galton, Sir, 1887-1962 person
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associatedWith Haber, Fritz, 1868-1934 person
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Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Mississippi River
United States--Washington (State)
Tacoma Narrows Bridge (Tacoma, Wash. : 1940)
Subject
Atomic theory
Short range ballistic missiles
Propulsion system performance
Tracking problem
Mechanics, Applied
Fluid dynamics--Mathematical models
Aeronautics
Missiles
Nuclear physics
Fluid mechanics--Manuscripts
Aerodynamics
Supersonic aircraft
Jato engines
Proposals
Physicists--Interviews
Science--History
Aeronautical engineers
Liquid propellant rocket engines
Civic leaders--Correspondence
contract management
Origin
Wind tunnels--Technological innovations
Turbulence
Streamflow velocity
Research and development
Jet propulsion
Astronautics
Bridges--Accidents--Investigation--20th century
Fluid dynamics
Nuclear aircraft
Fluid mechanics--Lectures and lecturing--Manuscripts
Quantum theory
Wind tunnel tests
Thermodynamics
Scientists--International cooperation
Scientists--Correspondence
Nuclear engineering
Aeronautics, Military--Research
Ramjet engines
Gas dynamics
Industrialists--Correspondence
Mathematics
Science--History--20th century
Bridges--Accidents--Investigation--United States--Washington (State)--20thcentury
Physicists
Rocketry
Aviation
Rocket test facilities
Occupation
Aeronautical engineer
Physicists--Interviews
Function

Person

Birth 1881-05-11

Death 1963-05-07

Americans

Hungarian,

Italian,

English,

German,

Spanish; Castilian

Information

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