The Caltech Institute Archives

Interview with Theodore Y. Wu

Wu, Theodore Y. (2002) Interview with Theodore Y. Wu. [Oral History]

See Usage Policy.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


An interview in three sessions, February-March 2002, with Theodore Y. Wu, professor of engineering science, emeritus, in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science. Dr. Wu was born in China and received his BSc from Chiao-Tung University (1946), his MS from Iowa State University (1948), and his PhD from Caltech (1952). In this interview, he recalls his boyhood and tribulations during Japan's invasion of China in World War II, his emigration and matriculation at Iowa State in 1948, and his arrival at Caltech a year later. Recollections of H. S. Tsien, R. A. Millikan, Theodore von Kármán, Julian Cole. Works with Paco Lagerstrom's aeronautics group developing asymptotic perturbation method pioneered by Ludwig Prandtl. Joins faculty as a research fellow in 1952. Interest in hydrodynamics. Origins of the department of engineering science in the mid-1950s by Tsien, Milton Plesset, and Charles De Prima. Interest in bioengineering, beginning in 1960; studies bird flight and fish locomotion. Discusses influence of G. I. Taylor and James Lighthill, and recalls his own work on flagellar and ciliary motion of microorganisms. Caltech's 1974 pioneering symposium on Swimming and Flying in Nature; new field of biofluiddynamics. Recollections of Y. C. (Burt) Fung. Recalls his sabbatical, 1964-65, at University of Hamburg with Georg Weinblum. Joins Advisory Committee for Reactor Safeguards. Recollections of Caltech presidents Lee DuBridge and Marvin L. Goldberger. Visit to China in 1979. Discusses his work, since 1996 retirement, on modeling of water waves; solitons and tsunamis. Concludes with comments on good relations between Chinese and Chinese American scientists and the flood of Chinese students to US for graduate work in late 1970s, after reestablishment of diplomatic relations.

Item Type:Oral History
Keywords:Engineering, aeronautics, hydrodynamics, bioengineering
Record Number:CaltechOH:OH_Wu_T
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Wu, Theodore Y. Interview by Shirley K. Cohen. Pasadena, California, February-March 2002. Oral History Project, California Institute of Technology Archives. Retrieved [supply date of retrieval] from the World Wide Web:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
Subjects:All Records
Subjects > Engineering
ID Code:161
Deposited By: Oral Histories Administrator
Deposited On:22 Oct 2008
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 15:23

Repository Staff Only: item control page