The scientist describes what is; the engineer creates what never was.--Theodore von Kármán

Theodore von Kármán (May 11, 1881, Budapest, Hungary - May 6, 1963, Aachen, West Germany) was a Hungarian born researcher/engineer specialized in fluid mechanics, aeronautics and astronautics. His laboratory at CalTech formed the basis for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Von Kármán's showed his talents for mathematics at a very young age. His father Maurice von Kármán, a professor at the University of Budapest and a commissioner for the Ministry of Education feared that his son would become too obsessed with mathematics, and urged him to take on engineering.

In 1902, von Kármán completed his undergraduate studies at the Royal Polytechnic University in Budapest. At this institute, he served on the faculty from 1903 until 1906 while doing outside consulting work. After this period, von Kármán moved to Göttingen, Germany to work for the famous physicist Ludwig Prandtl, and to receive his doctorate. His principal work was on the flow of fluids around objects, and in particular the analysis of the double row of vortices behind bodies (the so called Karman Vortex Shedding). Von Kármán later used this research to analyze the failure of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1940.

From 1912 until 1930, von Kármán was the director of the Aeronautical Institute in Aachen, Germany. His tenure was halted by World War I. Von Kármán was called to work for a military aircraft factory in Fischamend-Austria. This work would result in the development of a prototype helicopter; the first helicopter to maintain hovering flight.

The threat of World War II, and the rise of Nazism urged von Kármán to move to the United States. He accepted a position at the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology. While at CalTech, von Kármán would become a leading scientist in many disciplines including Fluid mechanics, Engineering mathematics, turbulence, supersonic flight, wind erosion, and aircraft design.

Von Kármán was also a pioneer in the research of rocket propulsion (mid 1930's). This work lead to the introduction of solid rocket booster engines for aircraft carrier planes (JATO), and missiles. In 1944, von Kármán co-founded the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at CalTech. This laboratory has played a key role in the development of long range missile systems, and space-exploration research.

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