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Retired Prof. Judson Baron dies; expert in space flight won Bronze Star in World War II

Judson Baron
Judson Baron

Retired Professor Judson R. Baron, who won a Bronze Star as an infantryman during World War II and went on to become an expert in space flight, died of cardiac arrest at his home in Lexington, Mass., on Oct. 6. He was 79 years old. A memorial service will be held on Thursday, Oct. 23 at 2 p.m. in the Student Center's Twenty Chimneys.

Baron, who retired from the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 1989, was a leader among those who foresaw the importance of applying automatic computing to fluid mechanical problems. The discipline is now termed computational fluid dynamics.

Baron made seminal contributions to the understanding of the severe aerothermal environment encountered in supersonic flight and reentry from space. This led him to make a defining study of the extreme heat and mass transfer that accompanies and constrains very-high-speed flight. These studies were facilitated by the availability of the Whirlwind computer. Earlier this year, he provided technical assistance to the Columbia Accident Investigation Board.

Born in Brooklyn in 1924 and raised in Queens, Baron served with the 80th Infantry Division of the Third Army during the war in Europe and was awarded the Bronze Star for heroism in Germany on March 13, 1945. After the war, he returned to New York University and received a bachelor's degree in engineering in 1947. A year later, he earned the S.M. in aeronautics and joined the research staff at MIT's Naval Supersonic Wind Tunnel, where he investigated problems related to supersonic flight, including advanced wind tunnel test section design and testing techniques.

He joined the faculty in 1956 after receiving the Sc.D. Subsequently, he served as director of the Aerophysics Laboratory and the Wright Brothers memorial Wind Tunnel. Baron remained active after his retirement, teaching part time and providing technical assistance to MIT Lincoln Laboratory.

Baron was an associate editor of the Journal of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and served as an advisor to a number of government groups. He won the Air Force Exceptional Civilian Service Medal in 1988 and was a member of Tau Beta Pi, Sigma XI and Gamma Alpha Rho.

He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Chelly (Wasserman); two sons, Jason of Bethesda, Md., and Jeffrey of Rockville, Md.; and one granddaughter. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics Graduate Scholarship Fund. For details, call 258-7338.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 22, 2003.

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