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Top American Physical Society Prize Goes to "Genuine Giant" Tony Maxworthy

"Tony has been a truly transformative faculty member" — Dean Yannis C. Yortsos

September 09, 2011 —

The American Physical Society (APS) has awarded this year's Fluid Dynamics Prize to Professor Tony Maxworthy, who has been a major factor in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering's steady rise in reputation and quality since his arrival in 1967.

“Tony has been a truly transformative faculty member, having spent the largest part of his career here at USC garnering honors and helping create and sustain a culture of academic excellence,” said Dean Yannis C. Yortsos.

Tony Maxworthy

“His stature has been hugely influential in attracting top students and faculty alike to the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering,” said chair Geoff Spedding. “He is the reason I came to USC. He is one of a small number of genuine giants of the field of fluid mechanics.”

Maxworthy is the Smith International Professor of Mechanical Engineering and a professor of aerospace engineering.

“We are all delighted that he has been awarded the Fluid Dynamics Prize, which is arguably the most prestigious in the discipline of fluid physics,” said Spedding.

Maxworthy’s award is for “outstanding and sustained contributions to fluid dynamics, elucidating stability of fluid interfaces, vortex dynamics, insect flight and, notably, to geophysical and environmental fluid dynamics, including stratified and rotating flow phenomena, gravity currents and convective processes,” states the APS citation.

Viterbi colleagues know these contributions well. “I personally have been reading and referring to works of his that stretch back 40 years, throughout my career,” said Spedding. “His work has extraordinary breadth and significance, as he has been successful in identifying what is important or interesting in any given problem.”

“In his remarkable career,” Yortsos added, "Tony has made seminal contributions in practically every area of fluid flow, spanning areas as diverse as geophysical fluid mechanics and the mechanics of miscible displacement and viscous fingering in Hele-Shaw cells and porous media. He uncovered complex fluid flow phenomena by conducting simple and elegant experiments, and by providing compelling, simple but brilliant physical arguments against which sophisticated numerical experiments have been favorably compared."

Born in Ealing, England, Maxworthy received his bachelor's degree from Imperial College, London before going on to receive a doctorate from Harvard University in 1960. He joined USC as an associate professor of mechanical engineering in 1967, becoming a full professor in 1970. From 1979 to 1989, he served as chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and in 1988 became Smith International Professor.

He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of APS and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has received the G. I. Taylor medal of the Society of Engineering Science, the Alexander von Humboldt Senior Scientist award, the APS Otto Laporte award and many other prizes. He has been a fellow and visiting professor at a number of universities and research centers across the world as well as a consultant to several industrial concerns. His resume lists nearly 200 publications.

The APS Fluid Dynamics Prize was established in 1979 with support from the Office of Naval Research. In 2004, the Otto Laporte Award was combined with the Fluid Dynamics Prize so that the Division of Fluid Dynamics would have a single major prize. The prize is now supported by the Division of Fluid Dynamics, friends of Otto Laporte and the American Institute of Physics journal, Physics of Fluids.