Wu, Theodore Yao-Tsu (Engineering scientist)
- Existence: 1924 - 2222
Background: Caltech Professor of Engineering Science 1966-1996 (Emeritus 1996- ); Professor of Applied Mechanics, 1955-1966; Research Fellow, 1952-1955. Caltech alumnus (PhD 1952).
Biographical/Historical Description: Theodore Wu was born in China in Changchow, Kiangsu, a small village between Shanghai and Nanking, in 1924. His schooling in China was disrupted by the war with Japan, beginning in 1937, but he earned a BS from Chaio-Tung University in 1946. In 1948 he decided to come to the US, where he continued his education first at Iowa State University (MS 1948) and then at Caltech (PhD in aeronautics and mathematics, 1952). His initial work was in aeronautics. At Caltech he became acquainted with H. S. Tsien and T. von Karman, while being advised by P. Lagerstrom. Progressively, with other Caltech colleagues, notably Y. C. Fung, C. De Prima, L. Lees and S. Friedlander, he became increasingly interested in the field of engineering science, where problems of engineering and science meet. Following significant work in hydrodynamics (which he continued), he became closely involved in the field of bioengineering, studying fish locomotion and bird flight, among other things. With J. Lighthill, he helped to establish the field of biofluiddynamics. He worked also in the allied area of naval architecture. Wu has served on many advisory groups, for example, on nuclear reactor safety; and he is the recipient of many awards and honors. After 1979, he worked closely with Chinese academic delegations to foster international students from China and scientific exchange.
Biographical/Historical Collection Notes: Oral history 2002. In this 50-page interview with Shirley K. Cohen, Theodore Wu recounts his early life and education in China in the 1930s and 1940s; his decision to come to the US to continue his studies; his attraction to Caltech and entry into the general field of engineering science. He describes his subsequent work in hydrodynamics, bioengineering, biofluiddynamics; he recalls his connections with colleagues at Caltech and around the world; he speaks of the importance of teaching and his efforts to bring Chinese students to Caltech.
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