In Memorium Regents' Professor Emeritus Edward W. Price
Regents' Professor Emeritus Edward Warren Price, a world renowned expert in the fields of solid propellants combustion and solid propellants rockets passed away on June 11, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia at the age of 91.
Ed, as he was known by his friends and colleagues, was born on December 6, 1920 in Pontiac, Michigan. He was raised in an impoverished homestead located in the "Apache Country" in the Arizona desert in a single room home now known as the Landmark Stafford Cabin near Faraway Ranch. The home and the ranch have since been placed on the National Register of Historic Places in what is now part of the Chiriachua National Park and Wilderness Area. Ed and his family were allowed to live on this property by its kind owners in exchange for light work. This act of generosity strongly impacted Ed's outlook on life, prompting him to be kind to those around him for the remainder of his life.
Upon graduating from a twelve-grade single-room school in 1938 at age 17, Ed joined the Civilian Conservation Core (CCC), which provided young men with room and board during the depression in exchange for work. Although his high school was among the most impoverished in the nation, Ed attributed his successful career to the town's only teacher, a young lady who was good at teaching math. This was an experience that made Ed a lifelong supporter of public school education, Ed's modest upbringing, educational experience, and his involvement with the CCC galvanized his personality, providing him with a strong appreciation of the importance of strong work ethic, and economic and intellectual independence.
Upon completion of one year of service with the CCC in 1939, Ed enrolled in Pasadena Junior College where he studied mathematics and competed in track and field. In 1941, Ed left school for financial reasons and started working at Caltech on static firing of rocket motors. Ed left his job at Caltech to enlist in the Navy in 1944 when the selective service ordered him to report. The Navy assigned Ed to work on solid propellants charge design and combustion at the Naval's Ordnance Test Station (NOTS) in China Lake, California. Ed received an honorable discharge from the Navy in January 1946 and continued working in China Lake until October when he enrolled at UCLA where he earned a double bachelor's degree in mathematics and physics in 1948.
Upon graduation, Ed returned to China Lake to work as a physicist at NOTS, which eventually became the Naval Weapons Center (NWC). In 1955, Ed became the head of NWC's Research Department Gas Dynamics Branch and was assigned to work on the design and testing of propellants charges and internal ballistics. During his years at NWC, Ed became an internationally respected expert in the fields of solid propellants combustion and solid propellants rockets. During these years, he made seminal contributions to the understanding of internal ballistics of solid propellant rocket motors, combustion instabilities in solid propellant rockets, ignition and combustion of solid propellants, aluminum and other metals, and the development of the "T-burner" testing method that has been further investigated by researchers and adapted by companies throughout the world. Ed also developed novel approaches and devices for controlling combustion instabilities and regulating thrust in solid propellants rockets and improving the combustion of solid propellants.
In 1974, after 30 years of service, Ed left the NWC to become a full professor at the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering at Georgia Tech. Notably, although Ed never earned any advanced degrees or studied engineering, he was hired as a full professor of Aerospace Engineering at Georgia Tech. In fact, Ed was a "self-made" PhD in engineering whose outstanding contributions to the understanding of solid propellants combustion and solid propellants rockets, along with his widely quoted publications provided Georgia Tech with the justification needed to hire him as a full professor. Ed proceeded to develop an outstanding research program on solid propellants combustion at Georgia Tech while educating many undergraduate and graduate students. For his contributions to research and education, Ed was promoted in 1986 to the rank of Regents' Professor, an honorary professorship. Ed retired from Georgia Tech in 1991, but continued to do research nearly through the end of his life.
Ed contributed to the advancement of solid propellants rockets technology in the United States by serving on important government and professional society committees. In 1961, he was nominated to serve as a member of the AIAA Solid Rockets Technical Committee and became its chairman in 1963. He was also selected in 1963 to chair the Solid Rocket Combustion Instability Subcommittee that was established within the Department of Defense Interagency Chemical Rocket Propulsion Group. In 1964, Ed was invited to serve on the AIAA Publications Committee, and in 1965 he was appointed to the AIAA Technical Activities Committee. In 1966 he was elected as one of the Directors-Technical of the AIAA Board, and AIAA Vice President in 1967. Ed also served as Member of NASA's National Research Council Independent Panel on the Technical Evaluation of the Redesign of the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster, following the 1986 explosion of the Orbiter Challenger.
Ed's contribution to science, engineering, and the literature were recognized with the following awards: the Navy Superior Civilian Service Award (1974), which is the Navy's highest honorary award; the coveted AIAA Goddard Award (1976), which is presented to a person "who has made a brilliant discovery or series of outstanding contributions over a period of time in the engineering science of propulsion or energy conservation"; the L.T.E. Thompson Award (1960), which is NEC's highest individual achievement award for "his outstanding research in internal ballistics, for his contributions to the understanding of the fundamental design parameters of rocket motors, and for his timely research in combustion stabiilty"; the AIAA Research Award (1967) for "initiation and sustained leadership of research efforts designed to elucidate the mechanisms of ignition and the burning characteristics of solid propellants"; the AIAA's Pendray Literature Award (1972) for "continued outstanding contributions to the literature of solid rocket internal ballistics and combustion, particularly for his contributions on combustion instability and ignition'"; the Joint Army Navy Air Force (JANNAF) Interagency Propulsion Committee Certificate Of Recognition (1985) for "outstanding contributions to chemical propulsion technology and service to JANNAF"; and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Public Service Award (1988) for "devoting considerable personal time and energy toward returning the Space Shuttle to safe flight by providing outstanding and invaluable technical guidance and oversight to the redesign, qualification, and recertification of the Solid Rocket Booster." Ed was elected to the NAE in 2000 in recognition of his "critical contributions to the understanding of solid propellants combustion and solid rockets developments."
Ed's long and productive life serves as an example that with intelligence and hard work, any person can succeed in life. Through his hard work and dedication Ed rose to become one of the world's foremost solid propellants combustion and rockets experts.
It would be appropriate to close this tribute to Ed with the following quotes from Ed's colleagues and students:
"I am forever indebted to him for giving me my first break in 1964 in the research area of solid propellants rockets. And that was only the beginning! Ed continued to help me in so many ways for more than forty years. I could always count on him for insightful advice and encouragement. Above all, Ed was totally forthright and honest. Ed will always remain a superb example of how to be with other people. One especially good attribute of Ed is that he totally biased my view of really dedicated civil servants! I don't see how anybody can ever surpass his dedication and belief in principles. He was remarkbaly alert and productive to the end...an example for all of us." Fred Culick - Professor, Aerospace Engineering, Caltech.
"Prof. Price means a lot to me. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that he has shaped me. His approach to science and life has left a deep impression and has influenced my behaviour since my association with him for several years in the 1990s as his graduate student and a post-doctoral fellow. His general knowledge and sense of history was overwhelming. I consider myself fortunate to have not only learned science at his feet but also a first person account of how America grew during the tumultuous period through the depression, war, and growth, stuff we can only think about and gasp! He was a fine human being; he took it upon himself to stop especially for me at a second place to get my lunch for our research group meetings because I am vegetarian. Even now I unhesitatingly share my hotel room with my grad students when attending conferences primarily because he did it for me when I was his grad student." Satyanarayanan R. Chakravarthy - Professor, Aerospace Engineering, the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IITM).
"I always felt deeply honored to be asked to lead the Engineering Sciences Devision in the Research Department because it was the merger of Ed's old Aerothermochemistry Division and John Pearson's old Detonation Sciences Division. There were many diverse research studies going on, with Ed involved in all of them. He led the efforts in some, while playing a supporting role in others through his keen insight and probing questions. Ed was always encouraging people to seek out the basic physics and chemistry of combustion and to not be afraid to make a mistake. Ed made sure that we understood that when you are doing research, you will make mistakes and that is just part of the process... Ed was a great leader, wonderful mentor, and a good friend.... " -Thomas L. Boggs, retired, formerly Chief Scientist for Energetics, and Head, Engineering Sciences Divisions, Research Department (the old Aerothermochemistry Division), China Lake.
Ben T. Zinn, Michael Massicott and Carolyn Massicott