Fred Ellsworth Clow Culick, the Richard L. and Dorothy M. Hayman Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Professor of Jet Propulsion, Emeritus, passed away on December 11. He was 90 years old.
Culick was born in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, but spent most of his earliest years in Camden, Maine. He earned his doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1961 and began his association with Caltech as a research fellow in jet propulsion that same year. Two years later he joined the faculty as an assistant professor of jet propulsion. He was named associate professor in 1966, full professor in 1971, professor of applied physics and jet propulsion in 1978, professor of mechanical engineering and jet propulsion in 1988, and Hayman Professor and professor of jet propulsion in 1997. He retired in 2004.
During his tenure, Culick's research focused on the dynamics of combustion chambers. Understanding those dynamics is important because unsteady motion in a combustion chamber can lead to uneven combustion and unpredictable thrust in rockets and jet engines. He also served in advisory capacity at JPL, which Caltech manages for NASA, assisting with spacecraft engineering and design.
Outside of his academic research, Culick had an abiding interest in aircraft, both their flight dynamics, and their history. In the late 1970s, he co-founded a project to build two replicas of the Wright Brothers' 1903 Wright Flyer, the first heavier-than-air manned craft capable of sustained flight. One of the replicas is on display at the Federal Aviation Administration building in Los Angeles; the other is displayed at the Flabob Airport in Jurupa Valley, California. He also co-authored On Great White Wings: The Wright Brothers and the Race for Flight, a nonfiction account of the Wright Brothers' first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
He is survived by his wife, Frederica Mills Culick (married June 1960); his children Liza Hall Culick and her partner, Geralyn Migielicz; Alexander Joseph Culick and wife, Hanne Culick, and their children Calin Culick, Vanessa Culick, and Adam Culick, and great-grandson Oliver Acurso (Vanessa); Marietta Culick Beecroft and husband, Bart Frederick Beecroft, and granddaughter Aubrey Huxham Culick Harris; his sister, Elizabeth (Culick) Bowman, and his nephew, Bradley Bowman.
A full obituary will be posted at a later date.