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In memoriam: Tony Maxworthy, 79

Tony Maxworthy was appointed Distinguished Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineeringr in January. (Photo/Dietmar Quistorf)

Tony Maxworthy, a pioneer in geophysical fluid dynamics who held the Smith International Professorship in Mechanical Engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, died on March 8. He would have turned 80 in May.

Recently appointed by USC President C. L. Max Nikias as Distinguished Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, Maxworthy has 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,” said Yannis C. Yortsos, dean of USC Viterbi. “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 (APS); a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; and a life fellow of Clare Hall at the University of Cambridge. He was also the recipient of the prestigious G.I. Taylor Medal of the Society of Engineering Science Inc. and the Fluid Dynamics Prize of the APS.

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 adviser on my postdoc and hired me.”

Spedding said Maxworthy impressed all those 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.

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

“He was highly esteemed in the department, nationally and internationally,” said Larry Redekopp, an aerospace and mechanical engineering professor who had known Maxworthy for 43 years.

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 seven years later, Maxworthy became a full professor in 1970. He served as chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering from 1979 to 1989.

A memorial service hosted by USC Viterbi will be announced at a later date.

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