Henry McDonald (engineer)

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Dr. Henry "Harry" McDonald FREng[1] (born in Girvan, Ayrshire, Scotland) is the Distinguished Professor and Chair of Computational Engineering at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga. He holds a BSc. and a DSc. from the University of Glasgow.


McDonald was educated there in aeronautical engineering and worked in the U.K. aerospace industry on a number of both civil and military aircraft before immigrating to the U.S. In the U.S. he became a U.S. citizen and was a staff member in large corporate research laboratory, United Technologies Research Center, where he concentrated on turbomachinery and what eventually became known as Computational Fluid Dynamics. McDonald followed this by forming a small R&D company in Connecticut, Scientific Research Associates.

It was while at Scientific Research Associates that McDonald, with Roger Briley pioneered the Block Implicit Method, a scheme capable of obtaining numerical solutions to systems of nonlinear multidimensional partial differential equations.[2] He was also asked to assist the NASA team investigating the Challenger disaster. Subsequently, he became a member of the Lockheed Martin team investigating a Titan motor failure.

Following this period of time, McDonald held a number of academic posts at Pennsylvania State University and Mississippi State before accepting an Interagency Personnel Appointment at NASA where he was the Center Director at NASA Ames Research Laboratory from 1996 to 2002.[3] During his stay at NASA, McDonald led an Aeromechanical Team investigation of a V-22 Osprey accident, reporting to the Assistant Secretary of Defense. At the request of a NASA administrator, McDonald then led a special investigation into space shuttle mishaps and this preceded the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. This particular investigation identified many of the systemic issues later cited by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. During his tenure McDonald also initiated the University Affiliated Research Center, the NASA Research Park, and the Space Science and Astrobiology Division.

Memberships and awards[edit]

McDonald is a member of the National Academy of Engineering since 2000,[4] a Fellow[5] of the Royal Academy of Engineering,[6][7] a Fellow and Honorary Member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers,[8] and a Fellow of Royal Aeronautical Society. In 2008, McDonald was appointed an Honorary Fellow in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).[9]

The Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) (UK) presented its 2009 Gold Medal Award to McDonald for work of an outstanding nature in aerospace. The event marked the centennial of the first Royal Aeronautical Society's Gold Medal which was awarded to the Wright Brothers in 1909.[10]

2009 also saw Dr McDonald inducted into the NASA Hall of Fame for providing, "...exceptional leadership and keen technical insight to NASA Ames as the Center re-invented itself in the late 1990s."[11]