National Academies Press: OpenBook

Memorial Tributes: Volume 19 (2015)

Chapter:JAMES H. WHITELAW

« Previous: DAVID C. WHITE
Suggested Citation:"JAMES H. WHITELAW." National Academy of Engineering. 2015. Memorial Tributes: Volume 19. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21785.
×

images

Suggested Citation:"JAMES H. WHITELAW." National Academy of Engineering. 2015. Memorial Tributes: Volume 19. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21785.
×

JAMES H. WHITELAW

1936–2006

Elected in 2000

“For contributions to fluid mechanics, heat transfer, and combustion instrumentation, and to education and the dissemination of new information.”

BY STEPHEN B. POPE

JAMES HUNTER WHITELAW, a pioneer of laser-based flow instrumentation who spent most of his career at Imperial College, London, died on August 16, 2006, at the age of 70.

He was born on January 28, 1936, in Newmains, near Glasgow, Scotland, and spent the first 25 years of his life in and around the city. He was an only child and grew up in a warm home that included an aunt and grandmother in addition to his parents.

After his education at local primary and secondary schools he gained admission to Glasgow University, where he took a “sandwich course” in mechanical engineering. This consisted of alternating six-month stints studying at the university and receiving training in different industries—the Coal Board, Esso, and the Caltex refinery in Bahrain. These experiences presaged the strong interactions between academic work and industrial applications that Jim fostered throughout his career.

After graduation he was briefly a graduate apprentice at Rolls-Royce. Feeling that he was not learning and advancing in that position, he applied for and received a research

___________________

This tribute draws extensively from the account of Jim Whitelaw’s life and career prepared by Brian E. Launder in the Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society (2007), vol. 53:385–399.

Suggested Citation:"JAMES H. WHITELAW." National Academy of Engineering. 2015. Memorial Tributes: Volume 19. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21785.
×

assistantship at Glasgow University, enabling him to pursue a PhD, under the supervision of C.D. Weir, on research sponsored by Merz & McLelland. The task was to measure the viscosity of steam at the high pressures and temperatures encountered in supercritical boilers. During his PhD studies Jim married Elspeth Shields, and they were devoted to each other throughout their lives together.

In 1961 Joseph Kestin of Brown University visited the laboratory. His work was on the measurement of the thermophysical properties of gases, and following technical discussions with Jim he immediately offered him a postdoctoral position at Brown. And so it was that Jim made the first of what must have been close to a hundred visits to the States, setting up his laboratory in the basement of Brown’s Applied Mathematics Department.

While the two years at Brown were productive, Jim looked for new directions for his return to the United Kingdom. In 1963 he joined the Imperial College of Science and Technology as a lecturer in mechanical engineering, with the objective of providing an experimental arm to Brian Spalding’s research group, which was developing calculation procedures for turbulent flows. Jim remained at Imperial College for the rest of his career, quickly progressing up the ranks to professor and head of the Fluids Section.

A pivotal point in his career was in 1968, when he became aware of the fledgling technique of laser-Doppler anemometry (LDA), which offered the prospect of enabling detailed measurements of velocity in complex turbulent flows. Over the next five years, in collaboration with Franz Durst, Jim developed a compact integrated optical system for LDA, which became the basis for the commercial systems marketed by DISA (later Dantec Dynamics). His pioneering work on laser diagnostics continued through the 1980s with the phase-Doppler anemometer, and into the 1990s with the shadow-Doppler anemometer.

To Jim, diagnostic techniques were a means to understand and characterize turbulent flows, usually complex flows related to industrial applications. Through the thesis research of 85 PhD students, he investigated a huge range of flows and

Suggested Citation:"JAMES H. WHITELAW." National Academy of Engineering. 2015. Memorial Tributes: Volume 19. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21785.
×

combustion phenomena, including secondary flows in ducts, blood flow in veins and capillaries, industrial burners, internal combustion engines, spray combustion, pulverized-coal combustion, opposed-jet flames, and combustion-induced oscillations in afterburners.

Jim initiated and led many activities to bring researchers together and to disseminate new findings. At Imperial College he ran many short courses on LDA and experimental methods; in 1977 he jointly initiated and organized the Turbulent Shear Flows Symposia, which ran successfully for 10 biennial meetings and then spawned the Turbulence and Shear Flow Phenomena meetings; and in 1983 he cofounded the journal Experiments in Fluids.

He was an incessant traveler, and California was a frequent destination. He consulted with many major companies in the United States, among them McDonnell Douglas, General Electric, and NASA Ames Research Center. He was also an honorary professor at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and later took a part-time position there as the Chair Professor of Combustion and Pollution. He bravely continued traveling after his diagnosis with an atypical form of motor neurone disease.

Jim was well recognized not only for his scientific contributions but for leadership in the research community. He was a fellow of the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering, a foreign member of the US National Academy of Engineering, and received honorary doctorates from universities in Lisbon, Valencia, Dublin, and Athens.

All who knew him will remember his cheerful disposition and sense of humor, his ability to challenge and spur students and others to greater achievements, and his devotion to his family.

He is survived by Elspeth, sons Alan, Stuart, and Jamie, and six grandchildren (three born after his passing).

Suggested Citation:"JAMES H. WHITELAW." National Academy of Engineering. 2015. Memorial Tributes: Volume 19. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21785.
×
Page329
Suggested Citation:"JAMES H. WHITELAW." National Academy of Engineering. 2015. Memorial Tributes: Volume 19. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21785.
×
Page330
Suggested Citation:"JAMES H. WHITELAW." National Academy of Engineering. 2015. Memorial Tributes: Volume 19. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21785.
×
Page331
Suggested Citation:"JAMES H. WHITELAW." National Academy of Engineering. 2015. Memorial Tributes: Volume 19. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21785.
×
Page332
Next: PAUL A. WITHERSPOON »
Memorial Tributes: Volume 19 Get This Book
×
Buy Hardback | $79.00 Buy Ebook | $64.99
MyNAP members save 10% online.
Login or Register to save!
Download Free PDF

This is the 19th Volume in the series Memorial Tributes compiled by the National Academy of Engineering as a personal remembrance of the lives and outstanding achievements of its members and foreign associates. These volumes are intended to stand as an enduring record of the many contributions of engineers and engineering to the benefit of humankind. In most cases, the authors of the tributes are contemporaries or colleagues who had personal knowledge of the interests and the engineering accomplishments of the deceased. Through its members and foreign associates, the Academy carries out the responsibilities for which it was established in 1964.

Under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering was formed as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. Members are elected on the basis of significant contributions to engineering theory and practice and to the literature of engineering or on the basis of demonstrated unusual accomplishments in the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology. The National Academies share a responsibility to advise the federal government on matters of science and technology. The expertise and credibility that the National Academy of Engineering brings to that task stem directly from the abilities, interests, and achievements of our members and foreign associates, our colleagues and friends, whose special gifts we remember in this book.

  1. ×

    Welcome to OpenBook!

    You're looking at OpenBook, NAP.edu's online reading room since 1999. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

    Do you want to take a quick tour of the OpenBook's features?

    No Thanks Take a Tour »
  2. ×

    Show this book's table of contents, where you can jump to any chapter by name.

    « Back Next »
  3. ×

    ...or use these buttons to go back to the previous chapter or skip to the next one.

    « Back Next »
  4. ×

    Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

    « Back Next »
  5. ×

    Switch between the Original Pages, where you can read the report as it appeared in print, and Text Pages for the web version, where you can highlight and search the text.

    « Back Next »
  6. ×

    To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter.

    « Back Next »
  7. ×

    Share a link to this book page on your preferred social network or via email.

    « Back Next »
  8. ×

    View our suggested citation for this chapter.

    « Back Next »
  9. ×

    Ready to take your reading offline? Click here to buy this book in print or download it as a free PDF, if available.

    « Back Next »
Stay Connected!