Engineering News

Emeritus Professor Alan Kistler Passes Away

Kistler was an expert in aerodynamics and turbulence

Alan Kistler, emeritus professor of mechanical engineering, passed away on April 1, 2019, at age 90. He will be remembered as a dedicated teacher, an expert in his field, and a valued member of the Northwestern community.

A native of Laramie, Wyoming, Kistler earned his bachelor's, master’s, and PhD degrees in aeronautics from Johns Hopkins University. After serving as a private in the US Army, he spent several years working in industry exploring aeronautics and gas dynamics, including serving as section chief at the California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he worked on problems in high speed and turbulent flows. In 1969, he joined Northwestern’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Astronautical Sciences as a professor.

Alan Kistler

Kistler was best known for his work on turbulence, particularly the development of the Corrsin-Kistler equation, which relates stresses between turbulent and non-turbulent regimes. His other research explorations included the effect of lake breezes on pollutant dispersion, as well as the effects of cavitation on face seals. He also studied the practical limits of solar and wind energy applications, which resulted in the installation of a wind turbine at the Evanston Ecology Center.

During his 30 years at Northwestern, Kistler was often noted for his strong commitment to his department. He regularly taught four or more courses in a year on topics including aerodynamics, fluid mechanics, alternative energy production, and turbulence. He also served as director of the department’s Gas Dynamics Laboratory, advised students in the honors program, and organized department presentations for the annual Tech Open House. He advised six PhD students and more than 30 master’s students during his tenure.

Kistler’s major honors include membership in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, American Physical Society, and American Geophysical Union, as well as serving as associate editor of the journal Physics of Fluids. He was also a member of a NASA committee that evaluated potential fluid mechanics experiments in space.

Kistler is survived by his wife, Ingeborg; daughters Lynn (Gregory Gadbois) and Eva (George Parker); and six grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his son, Stephen; brothers Ronald and Jack; and parents Lynnea B. Isaacson Kistler and John C. Kistler.

A memorial service for Kistler will be held on Saturday, May 25 at 3:00 p.m. at Unitarian Church of Evanston, 1330 Ridge Avenue in Evanston, Illinois.