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Interview with Wolfgang Knauss

Knauss, Wolfgang (2022) Interview with Wolfgang Knauss. [Oral History]

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An oral history in four sessions (September 2019–January 2020) with Wolfgang Knauss, von Kármán Professor of Aeronautics and Applied Mechanics, Emeritus. Born in Germany in 1933, he speaks about his early life and experiences under the Nazi regime, his teenage years in Siegen and Heidelberg during the Allied occupation, and his move to Pasadena, California, in 1954 under the sponsorship of a local minister and his family. He enrolled in Caltech as an undergraduate in 1957, commencing a more than half-century affiliation with the Institute and GALCIT (today the Graduate Aerospace Laboratories of Caltech). He recalls the roots of his interest in aeronautics, his PhD solid mechanics studies with his advisor, M. Williams, and the GALCIT environment in the late 1950s and 1960s at the dawn of the Space Age, including the impact of Sputnik and classes with NASA astronauts. He discusses his experimental and theoretical work on materials deformation, dynamic fracture, and crack propagation, including his solid-propellant fuels research for NASA and the US Army, wide-ranging programs with the US Navy, and his pioneering micromechanics investigations and work on the time-dependent fracture of polymers in the 1990s. He offers his perspective on GALCIT’s academic culture, its solid mechanics and fluid mechanics programs, and its evolving administrative directions over the course of five decades, as well as its impact and reputation both within and beyond Caltech. He describes his work with Caltech’s undergraduate admissions committee and his scientific collaborations with numerous graduate students and postdocs and shares his recollections of GALCIT and other Caltech colleagues, including C. Babcock, D. Coles, R.P. Feynman, Y.C. Fung, G. Neugebauer, G. Housner, D. Hudson, H. Liepmann, A. Klein, G. Ravichandran, A. Rosakis, A. Roshko, and E. Sechler. Six appendices contributed by Dr. Knauss, offering further insight into his life and career, also form part of this oral history and are cross-referenced in the main text.

Item Type:Oral History
Keywords:Engineering and Applied Science, Aeronautics
Record Number:CaltechOH:OH_Knauss_W
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Knauss, Wolfgang. Interview by Heidi Aspaturian. Pasadena, California, September and December 2019, January 2020. 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:Subjects > Engineering
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ID Code:305
Deposited By: Oral Histories Administrator
Deposited On:01 Mar 2022 23:19
Last Modified:01 Mar 2022 23:19

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