Kármán, Theodore von

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KÁRMÁN, THEODORE VON (1881–1963), aerodynamicist. Von Kármán was born in Hungary and studied in Budapest and Goettingen. During World War i he was a lieutenant in the Austro-Hungarian aviation corps. He invented a helicopter with two counter-rotating propellers, a type never developed by industry. After the war he became a consultant to many airplane companies. He first toured the U.S. in 1926 under the auspices of the Guggenheim Fund and settled permanently in 1930 as head of the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. Von Kármán published many papers on aerodynamics, hydrodynamics, elasticity, strength of materials, and vibration phenomena. "Karman Vortex Trail" and "Karman Similarity Theory of Turbulence" are now standard terms in scientific literature. The Collected Works of Theodore von Kármán was published in four volumes (1956). The development of high speed aircraft owes much to the influence of Von Kármán. He investigated (1938) the possibility of using supersonic wind tunnels in ballistic research. He formed the Aerojet Engineering Corporation to manufacture rockets after unsuccessful attempts to interest American industry in this venture. During World War ii he was in charge of all jet propulsion research in the U.S. Von Kármán was chairman of the U.S. Air Force's scientific advisory board (1944) and of the Aeronautical Research and Development Committee of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (1951).


Dryden, in: National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoirs, 38 (1965), 345–84.

[Barry Spain]