Thomas H. Dupree, a professor emeritus in both the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering and the Department of Physics, passed away on Feb. 11 at the age of 86.
Focusing on theoretical plasma physics, Dupree was well-known for studying plasma turbulence in terms of coherent structures. Understanding plasma’s unpredictable behavior has been a continuing challenge in the pursuit of fusion energy. Dupree’s articles published in the 1980s and 90s continue to be cited in support of current research.
Professor of nuclear science and engineering Ian Hutchinson remembers Dupree as highly regarded among plasma scientists: “He gained a reputation throughout the plasma community as having formidable powers of algebra and analytic theory. He was driven by the intellectual challenge of these very deep theoretical questions.”
Born in Santa Monica, California, in 1933, Dupree began his career at MIT as an undergraduate, completing his BS in 1955 and his PhD in physics in 1960. He joined the MIT faculty in 1961, receiving his double appointment as full professor in 1969.
Professor emeritus of nuclear science and engineering Kent Hansen met Dupree as a fellow undergraduate physics major at MIT, maintaining a friendship with him through graduate school and later as a professional colleague. He remembers the young Dupree as “very bright, very well-spoken, very reserved but engaged, with a good sense of humor,” as well as being “a superb tennis player.” The two friends acted as ushers for each other’s weddings.
Dupree married Andrea Kundsin in 1961. They met at a mixer for students from MIT and Wellesley College, where Kundsin was studying astronomy. She would later earn a PhD in astrophysics from Harvard University, and serve as president of the American Astronomical Society, as well as associate director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
Dupree’s teaching abilities were honored in 1987 with an MIT Graduate Student Council Teaching Award. He retired from teaching one year later at the age of 55, though he continued to do research.
In parallel with his academic career, Dupree was engaged in real estate development with his brother, Fred. Their first project in 1962 was 1010 Memorial Drive in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a now-iconic residential tower on the banks of the Charles River. He and his wife lived there themselves until they needed more room for a growing family. Their son, Tom Jr., was born in 1970 and their daughter, Catherine, in 1973.
Thomas Dupree is survived by his wife, son, and daughter, and his four grandchildren: Andrew, Caroline, Aoife, and Lochlann. The family has requested that donations in Thomas Dupree’s memory may be made to the MIT Department of Physics.