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MIT Professor Emeritus Nathan Cook dies at 80

Nathan Cook
Nathan Cook

Nathan H. Cook, an MIT professor emeritus of mechanical engineering, former MacGregor housemaster and World War II veteran, died on July 13 in his Eastham home after a long battle with cancer. He was 80.

A memorial service will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 26, at 1:30 p.m. in the MIT Chapel.

Cook, whose teaching and research were primarily in the areas of materials processing, machine tools and instrumentation, had served as head of the materials processing laboratory in the mechanical engineering department.

"Nate was one of those rare persons who was humble, fair, open-minded, caring and extremely intelligent. His personal integrity was one that many of his friends and former students have tried to emulate. His contributions to the field of manufacturing and instrumentation have been internationally recognized and will continue to influence the thinking of future scholars and engineers," said Nam Suh, the Ralph E. and Eloise Cross Professor of Mechanical Engineering.

Born in Ridgewood, N.J., in 1925, Cook enlisted in the Navy in 1943 and served aboard the destroyer USS Newcomb, based in the Pacific Ocean. Upon his return from the war, he studied at MIT on the GI Bill. Cook received an S.B. in 1950, S.M. in 1951, M.E. in 1954 and Sc.D. in 1955, all from MIT.

Cook joined the MIT faculty in 1953 and became a full professor in 1965. He wrote several textbooks and consulted with dozens of companies, before and after his retirement from MIT.

Cook and his wife, Alice "Collie" (Collins) Cook, served as housemasters at MacGregor House from 1970 to 1985, when he retired from MIT.

"He loved MIT," his wife said. "It was a very big part of his life."

Three of the couple's four children also attended MIT. Cook was actively involved in planning reunions for the Class of 1950 and helped set up the class' scholarship fund, said his classmate and colleague Robert Mann, the Whitaker Professor Emeritus of Biomedical Engineering.

"He was a wonderful person," Mann said. "I hold him in the very, very highest regard."

Cook is survived by his wife; two sons, James Cook of London and Richard Cook of Scituate; two daughters, Nancy Cook of Concord and Anne Cook of Stowe; and nine grandchildren.

A private memorial service was held in Orleans on July 17. Cook's colleagues plan to hold a memorial service at MIT in the fall.

Memorial donations may be made to the Nathan and Alice Cook Scholarship Fund for Nauset Regional High School, c/o Eastham Historical Society, Box 8, Eastham, MA 02642.

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