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Oral History
Rolf Sabersky Oral History Interview with Shelley Erwin [sound recording]

Resource available online.

An interview in two sessions, in April 1990, with Rolf Heinrich Sabersky, professor of mechanical engineering, emeritus, in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science. Dr. Sabersky received his undergraduate and graduate education at Caltech (BS, 1942; MS, 1943; PhD, 1949). He joined the Caltech faculty in 1949 and became a full professor in 1961 and emeritus professor in 1988. In this interview, he discusses his early education in Berlin and his family's flight from Germany in 1938 to Switzerland and thence to Los Angeles. He entered Caltech in 1939 as a sophomore; recalls his professors there: Donald S. Clark, Frederic W. Hinrichs, Robert L. Daugherty, Robert T. Knapp, Franklin Thomas, William H. Pickering, Romeo R. Martel, William B. Munro, and James W. Daily. Recollections of Thomas Mann. Pearl Harbor and Caltech campus in wartime; restrictions applying to him as an "enemy alien." He discusses his work on the Southern California Cooperative Wind Tunnel under Mark Serrurier; recalls visits to that project by Arthur (Maj.) Klein. Becomes a graduate student; lives in the Old Dorm and joins the campus fire brigade. Courses from Donald E. Hudson, Robert C. Bromfield, Peter Kyropoulos. After the MS degree, he goes to work at Aerojet Engineering Corp. at invitation of A.M.O. Smith; works with Martin Summerfield on sustained-duration liquid rocket engines. Recollections of Theodore von Kármán, Clark B. Millikan. Guggenheim Jet Propulsion Center and H. S. Tsien. Recollections of Fritz Zwicky in his Aerojet days. The influence of Aerojet's William E. Zisch. Becomes acquainted with James Van Allen in early 1946, at Applied Physics Lab, Johns Hopkins; their work together on the Aerobee rocket. Back to Caltech for the PhD; comments on advent of Frederick C. Lindvall and changes in the engineering division. Recalls his work with Duncan Rannie on axial flow compressors. Courses with Carl Anderson, H. Victor Neher, Charles Lauritsen. Receives his PhD, joins the faculty; consults for Aerojet. Comments on changes in engineering curriculum, drop in engineering enrollment in the late 1950s, the rise of environmental engineering. He discusses division problems with accreditation; assesses student quality and effect of the admission of women. Comments on increasingly cumbersome process of faculty recruitment. He discusses his work on boiling heat transfer, on fluids near the critical point, on fluid flow in rough tubes, on polymer solutions and non-Newtonian fluids, on flowing granular material. Talks about his "extracurricular" research on indoor pollution with Frederic Shair. He concludes with an assessment of current prospects facing graduating engineers.

ID: 1990-00177
Sabersky, Rolf

Creation Apr. 3, 1990 through Apr. 12, 1990

MEDIUM: Sound recording; FORMAT: Sound cassette: analog; QUANTITY: 1 set (2 cassettes per set)

Topics: Engineering, Mechanical engineering

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