John L. Lumley, the Willis H. Carrier Professor Emeritus
of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, who made seminal
contributions to engineering in the study of turbulent fluid
flow, died May 30 of brain cancer in Ithaca. He was 84.
Complex and chaotic, ubiquitous in nature and engineering
devices, turbulence is found in cumulus clouds, smoke stacks
and jet exhausts.
“It is difficult to think of any facet of turbulence, be it
formal mathematical theory, fundamental
physics, or engineering and environmental applications, to
which John Lumley did not make
important contributions,” said Zellman Warhaft, professor
of mechanical and aerospace engineering. “More than any other
person, he defined the field of turbulence during the second
half of the 20th century.”
In the late 1960s Lumley proposed a mechanism that
explained drag reduction in terms of the relaxation time of
polymers in turbulence – that is the time it takes polymers
to uncoil. His explanation still is considered to be the most
plausible, despite many other competing theories proposed
over the years.
Lumley made important contributions regarding buoyant
plumes and smokestacks, turbulent dispersion of pollution in
the atmosphere, the propagation of waves in the atmosphere
and oceans, turbulence in the presence of atmospheric
inversions, the flow of air over objects, the
diffusion of salt in water known as “salt-fingering,” and
the effects of electromagnetic fields on
In 1990, Lumley received the Fluid Dynamics Prize of the
American Physical Society. Other awards include the Fluid
and Plasma Dynamics Award of the American Institute of
Aeronautics and Astronautics in 1982 and the Timoshenko
Medal in 1993. Lumley was a fellow in the American Institute
of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the American Academy of
Arts and Sciences, and a member of the National Academy of
He was predeceased by his wife, Jane Lumley (nee French).
He is survived by his children, Katherine Leask Lumley-Sapanski, Jennifer French Lumley and John Christopher
Lumley, and five grandchildren.
Julian C. Smith Jr. ’41, M.Eng. ’42, professor emeritus of
chemical and biomolecular engineering, died Aug. 30 at Kendal
at Ithaca. He was 96.
Smith joined the Cornell faculty in 1946 and served as
director of the School of Chemical Engineering from 1975 to
1983. He was director of continuing education for the College
of Engineering from 1965-73. He retired in 1986. The College of
Engineering established the Julian C. Smith Lecture Series in his
“Aside from his many contributions to engineering and
his superb leadership of the department as it transitioned from
its historical focus on excellent teaching into one of the leading
research programs in the country, he was also a professor who
knew how to charm a crowd,” said Lance Collins, the Joseph
Silbert Dean of Engineering, in announcing Smith’s passing to
Smith was born in Montreal, Quebec, to American
parents—both Cornell alumni—Julian Smith Sr., Class of 1900,
and Bertha Louise Alexander Smith, Class of 1901. Graduating
second in his class, he went on to a Cornell master’s degree in
chemical engineering, then worked for several years at DuPont,
in part working on the Manhattan Project, separating uranium
He co-authored (with Warren McCabe of North Carolina
State University) a textbook, “Unit Operations of Chemical
Engineering,” which is still in print and has sold more than a
half a million copies. He contributed to five other books.
Outside of work, Smith was known as a singer and
entertainer. As a member of the Savage Club he frequently
performed comical songs and wrote a few of his own. He sang
in the choir of the First Presbyterian Church of Ithaca for some
50 years and served as an elder of the church. He worked with
the Ithaca Opera Association, the United Way and the Cerebral
Palsy Association. He golfed, reputedly as the oldest member of
the Ithaca Country Club, and wrote and published its history,
“Breaking Ninety.” He built a prize-winning stamp collection,
including at one time a copy of every stamp ever issued by the
Canadian government. His annotated land snail collection is
housed at the Paleontological Research Institution.
Smith’s wife of 57 years, Joan Dolores Elsen, died in 2003.
He is survived by his son, Brian Smith ‘85 and grandson Daniel
Smith ‘08, a daughter and four grandchildren.
TURBULENT FLUID FLOW EXPERT DIES AT 84
CHEMICAL ENGINEERING LEADER, DIES AT 96