Professor Laurence R. Young, internationally recognized for his basic and applied research on the human aspects of space travel, particularly the vestibular function's role in "space sickness," has been appointed the first Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics.
The vision and foundation gift for the Apollo Program Chair were provided by Dr. Robert C. Seamans Jr., professor emeritus of aeronautics and astronautics and former dean of engineering at MIT. Dr. Seamans has a long association with MIT and NASA.
The announcement of the establishment of the chair and of Professor Young's appointment was made by Professor Earll M. Murman, head of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
Other donors include Dr. and Mrs. J. William Poduska Sr., Joseph Gavin, Mr. and Mrs. Donald Atwood Jr., Rockwell International Corp., The Charles Stark Draper Laboratories, Northrop Grumman Corp., Courtland D. Perkins, Robert Stern and Michael Collins. Mr. Collins flew the command ship which orbited the moon during the first Apollo landing in 1969. He walked on the moon during a subsequent mission.
Professor Young, principal investigator in experiments on four space shuttle missions and an alternate NASA payload specialist for the Space Life Sciences 2 Mission in October 1993, will deliver a lecture on November 20 to mark the establishment of the chair and his appointment.
A member of the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine, as well as a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Professor Young received the AB from Amherst College and the SB from MIT in a combined program in 1957, the SB and SM in electrical engineering from MIT in 1959 and the ScD in instrumentation (1962) from MIT. He was appointed to a faculty position in the department and co-founded the Man-Vehicle Laboratory.
His psychophysical work on how the balance mechanism in the inner ear is linked to the "space sickness" that has bothered nearly all astronauts led to models which are used to help humans adapt to space travel and in flight-simulator motion control. The work is being extended to include visually induced motion effects. Professor Young is also recognized for his leadership in aerospace applications of manual control theory.
Professor Seamans, a member of the Class of 1942, had a major leadership role in conceiving, planning and carrying out Project Apollo as associate administrator of NASA from September 1960 to December 1965, and then as NASA's deputy administrator from 1965 to 1968. Dr. Seamans then spent a year at MIT as a Hunsaker Professor. In 1969 he was named secretary of the Air Force, a post he held until 1973. He was then named president of the National Academy of Engineering. In 1974 he was appointed the first administrator of the federal Energy Research and Development Administration. He returned to MIT in 1977 and was dean of engineering 1978 to 1981. For several years he was the Henry R. Luce Professor of Environment and Public Policy. He is currently a senior lecturer in aeronautics and astronautics.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 13, 1995.