Caltech Professor Rolf Sabersky Dies at 96

Published : Monday, November 14, 2016 | 6:06 AM

Rolf Sabersky, 1977 Credit: Courtesy of Caltech Archives (photo by Floyd Clark)

Rolf H. Sabersky, Caltech professor of mechanical engineering, emeritus, passed away on October 24, 2016, at the age of 96.

Born on October 20, 1920, in Berlin, German, Sabersky earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees in mechanical engineering from Caltech in 1942, 1943, and 1949, respectively. He joined the Caltech faculty as an assistant professor in 1949, became associate professor in 1955, and was named professor in 1961. He retired in 1988.

Sabersky made pioneering contributions to our understanding of boiling heat transfer, free convection, granular flows, and indoor air quality. He taught courses in thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and heat transfer.

Throughout his career, Sabersky worked with numerous luminaries, including Theodore von Kármán at Aerojet. James Van Allan sought his expertise for the development of the Ajax and Bumblebee rocket programs.

At Caltech, Sabersky was renowned for his commitment to education, mentoring, and promoting diversity. He was the author of two popular textbooks, Elements of Engineering Thermodynamics, and Fluid Flow: A First Course in Fluid Mechanics, which he coauthored with Caltech’s Allan Acosta, the Richard L. and Dorothy M. Hayman Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Emeritus. He received the Heat Transfer Memorial Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1977.

Sabersky was preceded in death by his wife of 70 years, Bettina, and is survived by his two daughters, Carol and Sandy, and their families.

A longer obituary will be posted at a later date.

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