Flügge-Lotz, Irmgard (1903–1974)

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Flügge-Lotz, Irmgard (1903–1974)

German engineer. Name variations: Flugge-Lotz. Born Irmgard Lotz in Germany on July 16, 1903; died in 1974; daughter of Oscar (a mathematician) and Dora Lotz (daughter of a wealthy family in the construction business); graduated from the Technische Hochschule in Hanover, Germany, 1927, Ph.D. in thermodynamics, 1929; married Wilhelm Flügge (an engineer and professor at Stanford), in 1938; became a naturalized American citizen in 1954.

Because her maternal relatives were highly successful builders, Irmgard Lotz spent an inordinate amount of time viewing construction sites during her childhood. In her college years, engineering appealed to her, and, after obtaining advanced degrees, Lotz became a research engineer at the Aerodynamische Versuchsanstalt at Göttingen, working with Ludwig Prandt. By age 30, she had invented the "Lotz" method, a new way of calculating the distribution of the lifting force of airplane wings of disparate sizes. With this discovery, she was soon heading her own research program at the institute.

In 1938, she married fellow engineer Wilhelm Flügge, who, in opposing the rise of the Nazi regime, had lost out on a promotion. But Hermann Göring, commander-in-chief of Hitler's Luftwaffe, felt research should supersede politics, and he hired the newlyweds to work at the Deutsche Versuchsanstalt für Luftfahrt. Though anti-Nazi, Irmgard Flügge-Lotz worked for Göring's aeronautics research institute throughout World War II. After the war, frustrated by her inability to secure a position at a German university, she and her husband moved to the United States in 1948, where she became the first woman professor of engineering at Stanford (1960). She remained at Stanford for the rest of her career, establishing graduate programs in mathematical aerodynamics and hydrodynamics. Her book on flight-control systems for aircraft, Discontinuous Automatic Control, was published in 1953.

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