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Obituary/Charles Kingsley

Charles Kingsley, Jr., associate professor emeritus of electrical engineering who was associated with MIT as student and teacher for nearly 50 years, taught at MIT for more than 40 years, died February 20 at the age of 89 in Mt. Lebanon, PA.

Professor Kingsley, an authority on rotating machines, magnetic circuits and other power apparatus, received the SB and SM degrees from MIT in 1927 and 1928.

Between 1929 and 1940, when he joined the faculty, he was an instructor in the Department of Electrical Engineering. During his career he also spent time at the General Electric and Boeing Aircraft companies and at Dartmouth College. After his retirement in 1970, he continued to work on research projects at MIT, including the superconducting generator, for a few years.

When it came time to connect the superconducting generator to the MIT power grid, Professor Gerald L. Wilson recalls, the honor was given to Professor Kingsley to throw the switch. A number of things could have gone wrong, Professor Wilson noted, and Professor Kingsley later joked, "I was a professor emeritus and they let me do it because they couldn't fire me."

Professor Kingsley taught widely in the undergraduate curriculum and published several papers on synchronous machines. He was the author, with Professor A. E. Fitzgerald, of the widely used textbook, Electric Machinery, first published in 1952 and recently brought up to date in a fifth edition by Dr. Stephen D. Umans. In 1943, Professor Kingsley and Professor Karl Wildes wrote the textbook Magnetic Circuits and Transformers. He also published papers jointly with Professors Waldo B. Lyon and Harold E. Edgerton.

His books had the style, rare at the time but common today, of bridging the gap between basic science and engineering practice. They greatly influenced other textbooks and the way the subject of electric machinery was taught and they were translated into many languages.

Professor Kingsley was an enthusiastic mountain climber, hiker and general outdoorsman. He climbed in both the Swiss Alps and the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and he hiked all the Presidential Peaks in both summer and winter. From the 1950s to the 1970s he was a member of the White Mountain Guide Book Committee of the Appalachian Mountain Club.

Dr. Wilson, Vannevar Bush Professor, professor of electrical and mechanical engineering and former dean of the School of Engineering, was a close friend of Professor Kingsley for many years and eventually bought a cabin Professor Kingsley owned on the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire.

"He had a deep love and respect for the outdoors which he shared enthusiastically with faculty colleagues and students for more than 50 years," Dr. Wilson said. Professor Kingsley kept a guest book at the cabin, which today is filled with the names of those from MIT who visited him there, Dr. Wilson added.

Professor Kingsley was a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and also was active in one of its predecessor societies, the American Institute of Electrical Engineers.

He is survived by his wife, Rebecca, of Mt. Lebanon, PA; two daughters, Priscilla Sharpless of Phoenixville, PA, and Prudence Larson of Mt. Lebanon; five grandchildren; four great-grandchildren, and a sister.

A version of this article appeared in the March 2, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 38, Number 24).

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