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VON KARMAN, THEODORE (1881-1963)

DOI: 10.1615/AtoZ.v.von_karman_theodore_1881-1963

During the first half of this century Theodore von Karman made major contributions to the understanding of the physics of fluid flow, especially in the field of aerodynamics. His name is given to the Karman Street, a series or vortices shed from alternative sides of a bluff body in cross flow (see Vortex Shedding).

Von Karman studied at the Royal Technical University of Budapest and the University of Gottingen. In the early 1900's he served as Associate Professor at both, with a break as an officer in the Austro-Hungarian Air Corps. He was Director of the Institute of Aeronautics at the Technical University of Aachen for more than ten years until in 1930 he moved to the USA to become Director of the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratories at the California Institute of Technology, where he remained until 1949.

During and after the second world war Von Karman was an advisor to military establishments in the United States and in Europe. He was awarded very many honors. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1946 and a member of the Legion of Honor in 1955.

Among his best known books are Mathematical Methods in Engineering [with M. A. Biot (1940) and Aerodynamics—Selected Topics in the Light of their Subsequent Development, 1954. The collected papers of Theodore von Karman have been published in 4 volumes.

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