Dr. Alfred Gessow 1922 - 2002
Dr. Alfred Gessow was a pioneer in the helicopter field and authored the famous classic, “Aerodynamics of the Helicopter”.
Born in Jersey City, Professor Gessow graduated from the College of New York in 1943 with a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering. Upon receiving a Master’s degree in aeronautical engineering in 1944 at New York University, he joined the government’s National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA), a predecessor organization of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Prof. Gessow worked at NASA’s Langley Research Center until 1959 when he transferred to NASA headquarters.
At NASA, he served as Chief of the Fluid Physics Branch, Assistant Director of the Research Division and Director of the Office of Aerodynamics. Professor Gessow became a member of the Senior Executive Service at NASA Headquarters, in which he was responsible for assessing requirements and opportunities in aerodynamics, gas dynamics, flight mechanics and associated disciplines as applied to aircraft and spacecraft. He also oversaw translating these requirements into NASA-wide cohesive research programs and for implementing them as Chief Program Manager. Professor Gessow acted as NASA’s spokesperson for these programs in a variety of contacts with industry, universities, and other government groups.
Alfred Gessow’s distinguished career as an educator began at the University of Virginia, where he taught courses on helicopter theory and aerodynamics. From 1944 until 1980, he was the chairman of the Committee on Graduate Studies at Langley and helped establish an advanced degree program there for NACA personnel.During the 1960’s and 70’s, he was an adjunct professor at New York University and the Catholic University of America. Professor Gessow also had the opportunity to teach helicopter theory as an Invited Professor at the Korean Advanced Institute of Science in Seoul.
In 1980, Professor Gessow came to the University of Maryland to become chair of the Aerospace Engineering department. He would serve in this post for the next eight years, expanding the department’s research and education activities in rotorcraft, composite structures, hypersonics and space system design. In 1981 Professor Gessow founded the university’s Center for Rotorcraft Education and Research and was its director until 1992 when he took emeritus status. The center, renamed in his honor in 1997, is one of the nation’s leading institutions of rotorcraft research and education.