Memorial Tributes: Volume 27
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  • GORIMIR G. CHERNYI (1923-2012)



    GORIMIR GORIMIROVICH CHERNYI is known as one of the principal architects of the theory of hypersonic flow and the thermal protection of reentry vehicles via ablating surfaces. He also contributed extensively to theoretical and experimental work on the combustion and detonation of gas mixtures and to the discovery and theoretical explanation of the phenomenon of extra-deep penetration of a cloud of small particles impacting metals, a topic related to the bulk hardening of metals. He died on Nov. 6, 2012, at age 89.

    Gorimir was born on Jan. 22, 1923, in Kamenets-Podolsk, Ukraine. In 1941, while still a student, he volunteered for enlistment in the Soviet army. He fought in the Battle of Moscow, which took place between October 1941 and January 1942. At the end of the war in May 1945, he was demobilized.

    After the war he returned to study in the Division of Mechanics at Moscow State University (Moscow University), completing his studies in 1949. He became a research engineer in the Ministry of Aviation Industry from 1949-52. Following this he became head of the Laboratory of Engine Gasdynamics at the Central Institute of Aviation Motors, a position he held from 1952-58. He received a Candidate of Engineering Sciences (Ph.D.) from the Central Institute of Aviation Motors in 1953 and the degree of Doctor of Physico-Mathematical Sciences (D.Sc.) from Moscow University in 1956. His brilliant career included the positions of professor of fluid mechanics (1958-60) and director of the Institute of Mechanics (1960-92) at Moscow University. He became professor emeritus in 1994. From 1992 until his death he was head of the Division of Engineering, Mechanics, and Control Process Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow.

    The achievements of Gorimir in various areas of aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering were recognized many times throughout his life. In addition to his election to the National Academy of Engineering in 1998, he was elected to the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1981 and to the International Academy of Astronautics in 1969. He was the winner of numerous awards. In 1965, he won the M.V. Lomonosov Prize for research on supersonic and hypersonic flows past wings. He also won the Zhukovskii Prize and Gold Medal (1969) of the Ministry of Aviation and the S.A. Chaplygin Prize of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1976). Gorimir was the author of three books on supersonic and hypersonic aerodynamics, all of which have been translated into English, along with some 150 papers written alone or in collaboration with some 30 of his doctoral students. I translated into English and edited the first of his books, Introduction to Hypersonic Flow (Academic Press, 1961). The book was originally published in Russian under the title Gas Flows at High Supersonic Speed. Gorimir cooperated and assisted in all phases of the preparation of the English edition of his book.

    Gorimir’s initial research centered on the gasdynamics of aircraft and missile engines. From 1949-54, he and his group at the Central Institute of Aviation Motors completed a series of theoretical and experimental investigations on supersonic air intakes, in particular the study of boundary layer-shock wave interaction.

    In the same time period, Gorimir developed the general theory of gas and liquid flows in boundary layers with discontinuity surfaces inside. This theory was the basis for a number of important technological applications, in particular the prediction of the thermal protection of reentry vehicles using ablating surfaces.

    Starting in 1957, Gorimir worked for many years on fundamental problems of hypersonic aerodynamics. He was the author of many pioneering works in this area, and a detailed presentation of his numerous studies in the field is contained in his translated book, Introduction to Hypersonic Flow.

    Gorimir was also the author of important works on the theory of combustion and detonation. In particular, he was the author of pioneering studies justifying the possibility of detonation combustion in ram jets for hypersonic flight. His later works dealt with the phenomenon of the extra-deep penetration of a cloud of small particles of different materials into metal targets at high-impact velocities. Among its many applications, the bulk hardening of metals may be cited.

    Throughout his career he served in many societal capacities, notably as a member of the Russian National Committee of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics (1960), of which he was president for many years beginning in 1995. He was elected to the Russian Academy of Sciences as a corresponding member in 1962 and a full member in 1981. He was a bureau member of the International Union of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, and he became a corresponding member of the International Academy of Astronautics in 1966 and subsequently a member of the Board of Trustees from 1982-92. He was an active member of the International Academy of Astronautics until his death. In 1995 he was also elected an honorary member of the International Academy of Sciences of Higher Education. For 24 years he was editor-in-chief of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ journal, Fluid Dynamics.

    Gorimir traveled a great deal as a consequence of his scientific prominence and his many positions. I met with him frequently in the United States as well as in Russia when I traveled there. He was an avid photographer. I recall that when he visited me at my summer home in Truro, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, no matter where we went, he always had his camera with him, whether it was a sandy beach or the quirky Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod. I was greatly amused by the fact that his desire to take pictures in Provincetown when we went there could hardly keep up with his sense of wonder stemming from his views of unfamiliar sites and scenes. He also had a hobby of collecting printed Russian currency notes, particularly ones dating from the Civil War in Russia.

    Gorimir’s first wife and mother of his children, Avgusta Vasilievna Gubareva, passed away in 1986. He is survived by his second wife, Alla Semionovna Gerber; two daughters, Nathalia Gorimirovna Chernaya and Galina Gorimirovna Chernaya; and three grandchildren.

    Gorimir’s death is not only a great loss to his family but also to science and his many friends throughout the world.