Memorial Tributes: Volume 26
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  • SIMON OSTRACH (1923-2017)



    SIMON OSTRACH was born on December 26, 1923, to Samuel and Bella (Seidman) Ostrach and raised in Providence, Rhode Island. He died on October 2, 2017, at the age of 93, in Pepper Pike, Ohio.

    Ostrach earned a bachelor of science and master of science in engineering from Rhode Island State College, followed by an additional master of science and a PhD from Brown University, both in applied mathematics. He was married twice and had five children.

    Ostrach began his professional engineering career at the NACA Aircraft Engines Research Laboratory (predecessor to NASA Glenn Research Center) in Cleveland and worked there from 1944 to 1947 and 1950 to 1960, with a three-year hiatus as research associate at Brown to earn his PhD. From 1950–60, he was chief of the Fluid Physics Branch. While at NASA, he studied warplanes and turbojet and turboprop engines. He helped develop an early supersonic wind tunnel. His main research focus was the effect of weightlessness on the behavior of fluids and how flows—which occur in nature and various technologies—are induced and affected by various forces. He also researched heat transfer and fluids in low gravity, developing important techniques for nuclear propulsion, space flight, microelectromechanical devices, and crystals in semiconductors.

    Si, as he was known by many, was a fellow of both the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). In 1998, NASA named him one of twelve “Super Stars of Modern Aeronautics,” selected for their significant contributions to the agency’s aeronautics programs over the previous fifty years. He was recognized for his work in buoyancy-driven flows and microgravity science. In 2015, he was named one of three “Giants of Heat Transfer” in the first class of NASA Glenn’s Hall of Fame. He received honorary doctorates from the University of Rhode Island, Florida State University, the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, and Brown University. Si served as NAE home secretary for eight years and was also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2001).

    Ostrach was a professor from 1960 to 2005 at Case Institute of Technology, which became Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in 1967. He served as chairman of Fluid, Thermal, and Aerospace Sciences. He established the National Center for Space Exploration Research at CWRU and was its initial director. He developed interactive experiments that flew on space shuttle Columbia in 1992 and 1995. He retired in 2005 after forty-five years on the faculty and became the Wilbert J. Austin Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Engineering.

    Over the course of a sixty-year career, his work contributed to the development of crystals for semiconductors and life-support systems in space, as well as for ground-based materials processing. Ostrach also made significant contributions in natural convection. His 1972 paper entitled “Natural Convection in Enclosures” has been cited over 600 times by both academia and industry for numerous applications, including electronic cooling. His work on natural convection has also been used extensively for benchmarking CFD codes.

    He flew several times on the notorious “Vomit Comet,” which plunges forty to sixty times in two-and-a-half hours, producing about twenty-five seconds of weightlessness each time. He made the last flight at age 81, four years older than John Glenn at the time of the astronaut’s last trip to space.

    Ostrach wrestled successfully in high school and spent twenty-five years as one of the most respected NCAA wrestling officials in the nation. The Dr. Si Ostrach Meet is held annually in January at CWRU in his honor. He also won sailing races at the Edgewater Yacht Club on Lake Erie and cruised Lake Erie for a week in many Augusts.

    In addition to his academic and scientific achievements, Dr. Ostrach was a loving husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather. He is survived by four of the five children he raised with his first wife, Gloria: Stefan Ostrach (Marion Malcolm), Naomi Burns (Jeffrey), David Ostrach, and Judith Hirsch (John), five grandchildren, and a great granddaughter. His son, Louis H. Ostrach (Sandra), preceded him in death, as did Gloria and his second wife, Margaret.