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National Academy of Engineering Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 10
Membership Directory
PublisherNational Academies Press
Copyright2002
ISBN978-0-309-08457-4
Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 10

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  • HARVARD LOMAX
    
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             HARVARD LOMAX                                            169
    
                             HARVARD LOMAX
    
    
                                      1922–1999
    
                                BY RICHARD A.SEEBASS
    
                HARVARD LOMAX, a research fellow and senior staff scientist at the National
            Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Ames Research Center and
            consulting professor at Stanford University, died on May 1, 1999. He was a
            gentle and quiet man who provided many significant advances in aerodynamics
            and fluid mechanics through his deep knowledge of mathematics and computers,
            his remarkable inventiveness, his dogged diligence, and his persuasive technical
            leadership.
                Harvard was born in Broken Bow, Nebraska, on April 18, 1922. In 1940,
            when he had graduated from high school, his aunt, Edith Stephenson, encouraged
            him to move to California, which he did. For a while he made her San Francisco
            home his California headquarters. She encouraged his study at Stanford, where he
            thought he might become a writer. She was more practical and realized his talent
            was in mathematics. Soon he was studying mechanical engineering at Stanford.
            While there, he met Joan Whitmore, who received her degree in social science
            and psychology. They were married December 31, 1943. With a subsequent
            master’s degree in music, Joan taught both piano and music at DeAnza College,
            where she conducted the senior citizen chorus for over twenty years. They had
            three children, Harvard Laird (1945), James Whitmore (1948), and Melinda
            (1959).
    
    
                 
    
    
             HARVARD LOMAX                                            170
    
                Graduating from Stanford Phi Beta Kappa in mechanical engineering in
            1944, Harvard was soon in the U.S. Navy and assigned to Moffett Field as an
            engineer. The only course he had found difficult at Stanford was machine shop.
            Nevertheless, the Navy made him a research scientist in a 16-foot high-speed (for
            that time, but less than Mach 1) wind tunnel. His theoretical ability soon made it
            evident that Harvard should join the National Advisory Committee on
            Aeronautics Ames Theoretical Aerodynamics Branch under Dr. Max Heaslet. In
            this branch, Harvard soon made many important contributions, including a little-
            known but extraordinarily informative derivation of the supersonic area rule
            [NACA RM A55A18]. He understood the hyperbolic equivalent of the Green’s
            function for elliptic equations, i.e., Riemann function, which he used to derive the
            supersonic area rule. This derivation made it clear how to separate wave drag due
            to lift from that due to volume, and thereby how to minimize the wave drag for a
            given lift and volume (or maximum cross-sectional area). Subsequently,
            Harvard’s results were widely used throughout the industry. This culminated
            almost twenty-five years of theoretical aerodynamics research, which for most
            would be a career in itself. But Harvard’s career was far from over. The age of
            the “numerical wind tunnel” was on the horizon, and Harvard was among the
            first to see its potential.
                In 1958 the NACA became NASA with both aeronautics and space in its
            charter. In an effort to speed up the reduction of data from their wind tunnels,
            NASA Ames arranged for the purchase of its first computers in the late 1950s.
            This attracted Harvard’s attention, and he soon learned machine language to be
            able to evaluate the results from his theories. The Theoretical Aerodynamics
            Branch was subsequently used to educate others at Ames, by their rotation
            through this branch, in the use of computers and computational methods.
                With the arrival of transistorized computers and FORTRAN, Harvard began
            a long career devoted to the development of computer methods for the solution of
            aerodynamic problems. Hans Mark, NASA Ames, and Dean Chapman, division
            chief for thermo- and gas-dynamics, wisely decided to form a Computational
            Fluid Dynamics (CFD) Branch with Harvard as its chief,
    
    
                 
    
    
             HARVARD LOMAX                                            171
    
             and with Robert MacCormack as assistant chief. This talented group made rapid
             advances with the arrival of a CDC 7600 in early 1970s. In 1972 the Illiac IV
             arrived. This was the first serious parallel computer. Despite this group’s talent
             and Harvard’s own diligence, it took nearly four years to make the Illiac IV
            operational.
                To allow Harvard’s CFD group to focus on the fundamentals of the
            computational methods, as well as on improving computing speed, a new branch
            was formed for Applied Computational Aerodynamics. This focus on the
            fundamental issue of “getting the physics right,” which is most difficult in
            turbulent flows, continues to pay handsome dividends even today in our growing
            knowledge of turbulent flows through the joint NASA Ames-Stanford Center for
            Turbulence Research.
                Despite their struggles with the Illiac IV, the branch, and soon the center
            were focused on procuring a special-purpose computer for fluid dynamic flows.
            This they called the Numerical Aerodynamic Simulator Program (NASP). In the
            formative stages of the NASP, a group of us advised the Ames management that
            everything about NASP seemed sound, except the program should purchase the
            best available computers for its needs, rather than trying to have a special-purpose
            computer developed for them. Whether this advice was correct is not known, but
            NASP, with Harvard as it father, became the Numerical Aerodynamic Simulator
            Facility.
                This facility made many important contributions to computer technology,
            computational methods, and the simulation of aerodynamic propulsive flows. It
            provided an ever-improving “numerical wind tunnel” and made many important
            contributions to aerodynamic and propulsion technology for commercial and
            military aircraft. It was Harvard Lomax who not only saw that this could be, but
            in large measure was personally responsible for making it happen.
                Among the many awards Harvard received were the NASA Medal for
            Exceptional Scientific Achievement in 1973, the American Institute of
            Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Fluid and Plasma-Dynamics Award in
            1977, and the Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Executive Service in
            1983. He was elected
    
    
                 
    
    
             HARVARD LOMAX                                            172
    
             an AIAA fellow in 1978 and a member of the National Academy of Engineering
             in 1987. He received the Prandtl Ring in 1996.
                All who knew Harvard admired his gentle ways, his extraordinary
             mathematical talents, his kind humor, and his quiet but effective leadership. This
             “gentle giant” is sorely missed.
    
    
                 
    
    
             HARVARD LOMAX                                                    173
    
    
                  
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