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C.F. Taylor Sr., aeronautics professor emeritus and aircraft engine pioneer, dies at 101

Charles Fayette Taylor Sr., a noted pioneer in the development of the internal combustion engine, especially those used in aircraft, died June 22 at his residence in Weston, where he had lived for six years. He was 101. The cause of death was pneumonia and congestive heart failure.

The body was cremated. A memorial service is being planned for the fall.

Professor Taylor, known to all as Fay, is survived by his wife, Alice (Hickley) Taylor, 98, also of Weston; a son by a previous marriage, Philip A. Taylor of San Carlos, CA.; seven grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren. Another son, Charles Fayette Taylor Jr., died three years ago in Pompano Beach, FL.

Charles Fayette Taylor was born Sept. 24, 1894, in New York City. In his autobiography Growing Up with the Twentieth Century, written in the early 1970s around childhood drawings carefully preserved by his mother, he writes, "These drawings. show a near obsession with machinery and constitute an eyewitness account of many aspects of technical practice. in the early years of the century." Reading at age 14 about the Wright brothers' flights of 1904 and 1905 kindled his intense interest in airplanes.

Professor Taylor earned the bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Yale in 1915. During World War I, he first served as an inspector of aircraft material for the US Signal Corps and headed the Navy's Aeronautical Engine Laboratory in Washington, DC. He obtained the degree of Mechanical Engineer from Yale in 1920 and was subsequently in charge of the US Army's Air Service Laboratory in Dayton, OH, where he supervised engine endurance tests, aircraft flight tests and fuel anti-knock tests. It was there that he met Orville Wright. From 1923 to 1926 he was in charge of airplane engine design and development at the Wright Aeronautical Corp. He was involved in developing the air-cooled "Whirlwind" engine used on the historic flights of Charles Lindbergh and Robert Byrd.

In 1926, Professor Taylor began his long association with MIT as an associate professor of aeronautical engineering. By 1929 he had been promoted to professor and became head of aeronautical engineering, a position he held until 1933, when he became professor of mechanical engineering and director of the new Sloan Laboratory for Aircraft and Automotive Engines, a position he held until his retirement in 1960.

Through his research and teaching in the 1930s, '40s and '50s, he developed the scientific framework for engine design and operation still in use today, and established MIT as an internationally renowned center in this field. He, his colleagues and his students made major contributions to critical areas of engine performance: combustion, detonation, fuels, thermodynamic analysis, friction, heat transfer, air capacity and dimensionless scaling. His two-volume seminal text, The Internal Combustion Engine in Theory and Practice, remains a primary reference for automotive engineers.

In addition to his engineering and teaching contributions, Professor Taylor was an accomplished artist. Following his retirement from MIT, he embarked on a second career as a sculptor in metal and a painter in watercolors and oils. He also worked in architecture and played the piano and harpsichord in chamber groups. In 1988, Professor and Mrs. Taylor were honored for creating the Educational Counseling Committee of Boston in the late 1940s and helping more than 2,000 black students attend college.

Almost two years ago, as he prepared to mark the centennial of his birthday, Professor Taylor was interviewed for an article in MIT Tech Talk (September 14, 1994). Asked about reaching 100, Professor Taylor remarked, "I don't recommend it." But then he added, with a smile, "I saw Haley's Comet twice (1910 and 1986)."

The family requested that expressions of sympathy take the form of contributions to one's favorite charity.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on July 24, 1996.

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