Elected in 1976
“For solving complex problems in aerodynamics, specifically in designs of airplanes and missiles.”
BY LEONARD SCHWARTZ, PETER BRADSHAW, AND WALTER G. VINCENTI
MILTON DENMAN VAN DYKE, emeritus professor of engineering at Stanford University, died of complications of Parkinson’s disease on May 10, 2010, at the age of 87.
First at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Ames Research Center and then at Stanford, Milton made many contributions to fluid mechanics, especially the mathematical/computational analysis of compressible flow. In the early 1950s he solved the very difficult numerical problem of calculating hypersonic flow and heat transfer over a blunt-nosed body. His program was used in the design of all Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo reentry modules. It was one of many cases in which he carried out a subtle mathematical analysis before devising a method of numerical solution. He was the founding coeditor of Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics and the compiler and publisher of An Album of Fluid Motion (Parabolic Press, 1982).
Milton was born on August 1, 1922 in Chicago, the son of James and Ruth Van Dyke. His father, with a degree from Pennsylvania State University, was a teacher of mechanical engineering, and his mother was a Phi Beta Kappa mathematics graduate of the University of Minnesota. The Depression of the 1930s made it difficult for either of them to find satisfactory permanent employment, and the family moved frequently.