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May13, 2009

Vol. 109, No. 13


Jack H. Irving *65

Published in the May13, 2009, issue

Jack H. Irving, an innovative physicist, died peacefully Nov. 11, 2008. He was 87.

In 1942, Irving graduated from Caltech and joined the staff of the MIT Radiation Lab, where he worked on the design of the analog computer for precision radar. From 1946 to 1948, Irving was a graduate student in physics at Princeton. He then interrupted his studies to accept a fellowship at Caltech, where he developed innovative methods for statistical mechanics.

Irving next headed a group at Hughes Aircraft that developed the first airborne digital computer for fighter aircraft. In 1954, he joined the Ramo-Woolridge Corp. (later TRW), where he directed early theoretical studies of synchronous orbit satellites (later critical to global communications systems) and of rocket navigation and control (forerunner of the Apollo program).

In 1960, Irving joined the newly formed non-profit Aerospace Corp. as head of systems research and planning. He took a sabbatical in 1963, and by 1965 completed his Ph.D. in physics from Princeton. Following his return to Aerospace, Irving pioneered the concept of personal rapid transit. In retirement, he worked on energy-efficient pumps and compressors.

Irving is survived by Florence, his wife of 60 years, three children, and one grandson.

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