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Professor Lumley passes away

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Professor John Lumley, Willis H. Carrier Professor of Engineering Emeritus

Dr. John Leask Lumley, Willis H. Carrier Professor Emeritus of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell University, died quietly on Saturday, May 30th, in the home he loved and had shared with his wife of sixty-one years. He was in the company of his family, and, to nearly the end, his beloved golden retriever Bentley--named for one of the many classic cars he spent his spare time restoring. John succumbed to the glioblastoma tumor of the brain that had been diagnosed in January, and which had not yielded to aggressive treatment. The son of English and Scottish immigrants, John was a first generation American. His lifelong appreciation of design was encouraged by his father, Charles Swain Lumley, who was employed as an architectural engineer in Detroit in 1930 when John was born. Though possessing only an eighth grade education, John's mother, Jane Leask Lumley, shared his affection for math. On arriving in this country as a teenager, she worked her first job as a human calculator for a New York department store, performing all sums rapidly and in her head. John met his wife Jane when they were undergraduates at Harvard and Radcliffe. They married while John was completing his doctorate at Johns Hopkins, having three children in Baltimore before moving to State College, Pennsylvania where John joined the Penn State faculty. He was rapidly promoted to the position of Evan Pugh Professor of Aerospace Engineering and is believed to have been the youngest professor to ever hold this prestigious title. John and Jane spent twenty years at Penn State, then accepted offers from Cornell University in 1977, exchanging their modern single story ranch house for a rambling old Victorian on a grassy lot with a pond. They immediately set about renovating the kitchen, then made steady use of it in the years that followed, pursuing their love of cooking and food that had begun with John's first sabbatical to Marseille in 1966. Ithaca and Cornell were a good fit for John, offering him intellectual challenge, physical beauty, and enduring friendships. Over the course of his career as an expert in the field of turbulence, he received numerous professional honors, including the Timoshenko Medal in 1993, the Fluid Dynamics Prize of the American Physical Society in 1990, the Fluid and Plasma Dynamics Award of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 1982, and two honorary doctorate degrees from the French University System in Lyons and Poitiers. John was a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, as well as a member of the National Academy of Engineering. John was widely recognized for his contributions and leadership within the international fluid dynamics community, particularly for his contributions to the physics and engineering of turbulence, but he was loved by those who knew him well for his unwavering honesty, his utter lack of guile and for a tenderness that lived below his sometimes gruff exterior. He was the kind of father who read aloud every night to his young children, who trimmed their bangs and bandaged their cuts, and who later taught them the relative merits of such things as a firm handshake and the calves' brains he would sometimes prepare for supper with brown butter and capers alongside cold, sliced new potatoes. John respected clever ideas and well completed work, without regard to the field in which they occurred or the education of their originators. His curiosity, unusually sharp memory and love of reading made him an engaging conversationalist and correspondent, and those who were lucky enough to share meals or projects with him, or to have him as a teacher, will miss his candor and interest. John is survived by his children Katherine Leask Lumley-Sapanski (husband Robert John Lumley-Sapanski), Jennifer French Lumley (husband Raymond Duchesne) and John Christopher Lumley, and by their children Audrey Lumley-Sapanski, Jonathan Eli Lumley-Sapanski, Ryden Lumley Duchesne, Phoebe Katherine Lumley and James Maurice Lumley.

A memorial service is scheduled for 1:30pm Saturday, June 27th, at Cornell University's Anabel Taylor Hall Chapel.

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