Skip to Content
Alumni profile

Robert G. Loewy, SM ’48

Aerospace engineer propels rotorcraft technology.
June 27, 2017

Robert G. Loewy became interested in aerospace engineering at a young age, and today, at age 91, he is still working to advance the field.

“My father had a book about Eddie ­Rickenbacker—famous race car driver and fighter pilot, the WWI ace of aces,” he recalls. “I read it as a child and knew that something involving aircraft was what I wanted to do.”

After earning his undergraduate degree at ­Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), his master’s degree at MIT, and his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania, Loewy did just that, holding positions including chief technical engineer at Boeing Rotorcraft Systems (formerly Boeing Helicopters) and chief scientist for the U.S. Air Force. Then he began a career in academia and research, where he continued to explore the technical side of aerospace engineering. He took a position as an assistant professor at the University of Rochester, where he eventually became dean of the college of engineering.

In 1974, Loewy returned to RPI and spent four years as provost and 16 years as Institute Professor of Aeronautical Engineering and Mechanics, a senior teaching and research position. During his time at RPI, he founded the Rotorcraft Technology center there and served as its director for five years.

Helicopters and other rotorcraft, a longtime interest of Loewy’s, pose distinctive engineering challenges, he explains. “When the blades of a rotor are rotating, they come back into the wake they produce,” he says. “Since the rotor blades enter their own wake, the pertinent aerodynamics is more difficult because they are always experiencing velocities variable in space and time.”

In 1993, Loewy moved to Georgia Tech and became the William R.T. Oakes Professor and chair of the School of Aerospace Engineering, a position he held for 15 years. Today, he still serves on the school’s advisory board. He is also known as an expert on aeroelasticity, vibrations, and vertical flight.

Though he was not at MIT long, he values the Institute’s impact on his life. “I spent just three semesters at MIT,” says Loewy, “and met the people that were my lifelong friends.”

A member of the National Academy of Engineering, he earned the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal and is a three-time recipient of the Department of the Air Force Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service.

He and his wife, Lila, live in Philadelphia and enjoy spending time with their three children and six grandchildren.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

This startup wants to copy you into an embryo for organ harvesting

With plans to create realistic synthetic embryos, grown in jars, Renewal Bio is on a journey to the horizon of science and ethics.

VR is as good as psychedelics at helping people reach transcendence

On key metrics, a VR experience elicited a response indistinguishable from subjects who took medium doses of LSD or magic mushrooms.

This nanoparticle could be the key to a universal covid vaccine

Ending the covid pandemic might well require a vaccine that protects against any new strains. Researchers may have found a strategy that will work.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.