Philip G. Saffman - Photo credit: Caltech Archives
Mrs. Ruth Saffman, in memory of her late husband, Theodore von Kármán Professor Emeritus, Philip G. Saffman (1931-2008), has established the Philip G. Saffman Endowed Graduate Fellowship in Engineering and Applied Science in the area of mechanics.
Professor Saffman is known for his significant contributions to fluid mechanics, including: microscopic and macroscopic mixing in gases, the stability of dusty gas flow, the theory of homogeneous turbulence, the behavior of bubbly and multiphase flow, fingering in Hele-Shaw flow, bio-fluid and micro-fluid mechanics, and the interpretation of the role of vorticity in fluid mechanics. His research into the phenomenon of viscous fingering became known as the Saffman-Taylor instability. "Philip Saffman was one of the leading figures in fluid mechanics and a giant in the field of vortex dynamics and its applications. He combined rigorous mathematical modeling and superb physical insight to elucidate the physics of fluid flow. He was also an influential teacher and exemplary mentor to several generations of students. His work continues to motivate and influence contemporary research in fluid dynamics, which attests to the power of his pioneering ideas." Said G. (Ravi) Ravichandran, John E. Goode, Jr., Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering; Otis Booth Leadership Chair, Division of Engineering and Applied Science.
He authored many publications, including the monograph “Vortex Dynamics,” based on his Caltech course of the same name. This text has become a classic in the fluid-dynamical literature. He was a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Fellow of the Royal Society, the United Kingdom’s premier scientific organization. He was also a recipient of the Otto Laporte Award from the American Physical Society.
Philip G. Saffman was born in Leeds, England, and received his BA, MA, and PhD from the University of Cambridge. In 1964 he joined the Caltech faculty as a full professor in fluid mechanics in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science and was named von Kármán Professor in 1995. He served as Executive Officer for the Department of Applied Mathematics from 1985 to 1988. During his time at Caltech he mentored over 35 graduate students and was an influential teacher to generations of undergraduates whose requirements included the definitive Math class AMA 95.
Professor Saffman always understood the importance—and need—for Caltech to attain the best graduate students. As a result, Ruth Saffman and the Saffman family have decided to honor his memory through this generous Fellowship that was also supported, in part, by a match from the Moore Foundation. The first recipient of the Saffman Fellowship is Nicholas White, who recently began his graduate studies in the Graduate Aerospace Laboratories of the California Institute of Technology (GALCIT). He has come to Caltech with a BA from Princeton University and an MS from University of Waterloo and is interested in pursuing research in fluid mechanics at Caltech.