Logo: University of Southern California

Distinguished Professor Tony Maxworthy Has Passed Away

The Much-Decorated USC Viterbi Aerospace & Mechanical Engineering Professor Revolutionized the Field of Geophysical Fluid Dynamics
By Marc Ballon
March 08, 2013 —

Tony Maxworthy, a pioneer in geophysical fluid dynamics whose work reshaped the field and contributed to USC Vierbi’s reputation for excellence, died Friday, March 8. He was 79.

Recently appointed by USC President C.L. Max Nikias as a Distinguished Professor of USC, Maxworthy called the university home since 1967. His research led to a better understanding of the dynamics of weather patterns, the behavior of avalanches, and the thermal structure of lakes, oceans and the atmosphere, among other subjects.

“He was a giant in the field of fluid dynamics and leaves behind a tremendous legacy,” USC Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos said. “His passing creates a big void. Today is a very sad day for all of us.”

During his lifetime, Maxworthy received several accolades in recognition of his many contributions. He was a member of the National Academy of Engineering; a fellow of the American Physical Society; a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; and a life fellow of Clare Hall at the University of Cambridge. He also received the prestigious G.I. Taylor medal of the Society of Engineering Science and the APS Fluid Dynamics Prize.

Geoffrey Spedding, chair of the USC Viterbi Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Department, said he initially came to USC to study with Maxworthy, who “mentored me, was my advisor on my post-doc and hired me.”

Spedding said Maxworthy impressed all who knew him with his intellectual prowess.

“It was customary that he would do the basic work in a field and the rest of us would be catching up for the next 10 to 15 years,” Spedding said.

Maxworthy, he added, was as committed to his colleagues and students as to his research. Until the end, Maxworthy continued to attend faculty events and teach a class.

He would have turned 80 in May.

Born in Ealing, England, Maxworthy earned a bachelor’s degree from Imperial College, London before going on to Harvard University, where he received a doctorate in 1960. Joining USC in 1967, Maxworthy became a full professor in 1970. He served as Department of Mechanical Engineering chair from 1979 to 1989.

The Viterbi School will hold a memorial service in Maxworthy’s honor in due time. Funeral arrangements will be announced as they are made.