Thursday, July 2, 2009

July 2: Hugh Latimer Dryden

Hugh Latimer Dryden
July 2, 1898 – December 2, 1965

Dr. Hugh Latimer Dryden was an aeronautical scientist and civil servant. He served as NASA Deputy Administrator from August 19, 1958 until his death.

As a student he excelled in mathematics. He graduated from Baltimore City College, a High School, at the age of 14, and was the youngest student ever to graduate from that school. He was awarded the Peabody Prize for excellence in mathematics. With a scholarship, he was admitted to Johns Hopkins University and graduated with honors after only three years. He earned a M.S. in physics in 1916. His thesis was titled, "Airplanes: An Introduction to the Physical Principles Embodied in their Use."

In 1918 he joined the National Bureau of Standards, becoming an inspector of gauges. With the help and influence of Dr. Joseph S. Ames, he obtained a transfer to the bureau's Wind Tunnel division, and began taking graduate courses in fluid dynamics to complete his Ph.D. In 1919 at the age of 20, he was awarded his degree in physics and mathematics from Johns Hopkins University, the youngest person ever to have received a doctorate from that institution. His thesis was on the "Air Forces on Circular Cylinders".

In 1920 he became the director of the Aerodynamics Division of the National Bureau of Standards, a newly-created section. Collaborating with Dr. Lyman J. Briggs, he performed studies of airfoils near the speed of sound. He also performed pioneering aerodynamics research on the problems of airflow, turbulence, and especially the boundary layer phenomenon. His work contributed to the design of the wings for the P-51 Mustang, as well as other aircraft designed during World War II.

By 1934 he had become the bureau's Chief of the Mechanics and Sound Division. In 1939 he became a member of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA).

With the start of World War II, Dr. Dryden served in an advisory capacity to the Air Force. He led the development of the "Bat", a radar-homing guided bomb program. This was successfully employed in combat in April, 1945 to sink a Japanese destroyer.

After the war Dr. Dryden became the Director of Aeronautical Research for NACA in 1946. While at the NACA he supervised the development of the North American X-15, a rocket plane used for research and testing. He also established programs for V/STOL aircraft, and studied the problem of atmospheric reentry.

He held the position of Director of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), NASA's predecessor, from 1947 until October 1958. In addition he served on numerous government advisory committees, including the Scientific Advisory Committee to the President. From 1941 until 1956 he was editor of the Journal of the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences. After NACA became NASA, he became the Deputy Director of that organization, serving until his death.

The crater Dryden on the Moon is named in his honor.

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