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Retired Professor Henry M. Paynter dies at home in Vermont at age 78

Henry Paynter
Henry Paynter

Professor Emeritus Henry M. Paynter, a member of the MIT faculty from 1946 to 1985, died on June 14 while working on a project in the study of his home in Pittsford, Vt., surrounded by his papers and books. He was 78 years old.

Paynter was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1997, one of the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. He held six patents on tension actuator-based robotics technology and was known for his contributions to the analysis, design and control of complex multimedia systems and for developing the Bond graph modeling language. Bond graphs are a unique way of describing dynamic models.

He received the S.B. in civil engineering in 1944, the S.M. in mathematics and science in 1949, and the Sc.D. in hydroelectric engineering in 1951, all from MIT. Paynter joined the Department of Civil Engineering in 1946 and became an assistant professor in 1951. He joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering in 1954 on a half-time basis to initiate a systems engineering curriculum. He became full time in mechanical engineering in 1959 and was promoted to associate professor the following year. He became a full professor in 1964. After he retired, Paynter was a senior lecturer in mechanical engineering.

After retiring to Vermont, Paynter became active in the Pittsford Historical Society and did an extensive study of the career of Vermont's Samuel Hopkins, whose 1790 patent was the first issued in the United States.

Paynter was a prolific publisher of his works and collaborated widely with colleagues. In addition, he enthusiastically pursued local causes including the environment, forestry, and land preservation. He was active in Vermont Coverts Inc., which is dedicated to woodlands preservation.

Paynter received the Alfred Noble Prize of the Joint Engineering Societies in 1953, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Oldenburger Medal in 1979 and the ACC Education Award in 1984. He was a fellow of ASME, a life member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

Paynter was born in Evanston, Ill., and raised in New York. During his MIT career, the family lived in Reading, Mass.

He leaves his wife of 57 years, Gayllis A. (Beasley); a sister, Jane Solit of Deposit, N.Y.; two daughters, Emily of Durham, N.C., and Martha Paynter of Natick, Mass.; three sons, Bruce W. of Newark, N.J., Kenneth D. of Herzliya, Israel, and Neil F. of Hancock, Mich.; 13 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

Gifts in his memory may be made to the MIT Henry Paynter Memorial Fund, Recording Secretary, MIT Office of the Treasurer, 238 Main St., Suite 200, Cambridge, Mass. 02142-1012; or to the Pittsford Historical Society Inc., P.O. Box 423, Pittsford, Vt. 05763. A memorial service was held in Pittsford on June 22.

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