Rufus Oldenburger

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Rufus Oldenburger (6 July 1908, Grand Rapids, Michigan – 1969) was an American mathematician and mechanical engineer.[1]

Education and career[edit]

Oldenburger received from the University of Chicago an A.B. degree 1928, a master's degree in mathematics in 1930, and a Ph.D. in 1934.[1][2] After teaching mathematics at the University of Michigan, at the Case Institute of Technology, at Illinois Institute of Technology, and at DePaul University, he changed the focus of his research from pure mathematics to mechanical engineering and automatic control. He was an invited speaker at the International Congress of Mathematicians in 1936 at Oslo. For the academic year 1937–38 he was a visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.[3]

Among his engineering achievements are many contributions in the fields of prime-mover speed governors, in particular electric governors for hydraulic turbines, diesel governors with optimum non-linear control, and a new type of hydraulic governor without dashpots. He also developed a computer-type gas turbine control, a signal stabilization device, and a rapid method of finding the roots of algebraic equations especially for the problem of control design. In 1956 he was named professor of engineering science and mechanical engineering at Purdue, later being appointed professor of electrical and mechanical engineering, and then professor of mechanical engineering in the School of Mechanical Engineering. He was also the founder and Director of the Automatic Control Center at Purdue. Author of two books and editor-co-author of five others, Oldenburger wrote some 110 papers. Forty of these were on pure mathematics devoted to higher dimensional determinants and matrices, higher degree polynomials and forms, and symbolic dynamics. He read and spoke eight modern languages and lectured abroad extensively.[1]

In 1968, he was the first recipient of the Rufus Oldenburger Medal, an annually awarded medal named in his honor by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Selected publications[edit]


  • "On canonical binary trilinear forms". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 38: 385–387. 1932. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1932-05398-8. MR 1562403.
  • "Composition and rank of n-way matrices and multilinear forms". Annals of Mathematics: 622–653. 1934. doi:10.2307/1968754.
  • "Non-singular multi-linear forms and certain p-way matrix factorizations". Trans. Amer. Math. Soc. 39: 422–455. 1936. doi:10.1090/s0002-9947-1936-1501856-7. MR 1501856.
  • "On arithmetic invariants of binary cubic and binary trilinear forms". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 42: 871–873. 1936. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1936-06453-0. MR 1563456.
  • "Real canonical binary symmetric trilinear forms". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 43: 546–553. 1937. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1937-06600-6. MR 1563584.
  • "Rational equivalence of a form to a sum of pth powers". Trans. Amer. Math. Soc. 44: 219–249. 1938. doi:10.1090/s0002-9947-1938-1501968-x. MR 1501968.
  • "Exponent trajectories in symbolic dynamics". Trans. Amer. Math. Soc. 46: 453–466. 1939. doi:10.1090/s0002-9947-1939-0000352-9. MR 0000352. (See also: Kolakoski sequence.)
  • "Decomposition of elements in abelian groups". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 45: 152–158. 1939. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1939-06926-7. MR 1563930.
  • "Complete reducibility of forms". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 46: 88–92. 1940. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1940-07141-1. MR 0001196.
  • with Arthur Porges: "The minimal numbers of binary forms". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 46: 694–697. 1940. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1940-07282-9. MR 0002833.
  • "Higher dimensional determinants". American Mathematical Monthly: 25–33. 1940. doi:10.2307/2304053.
  • "Recurrence of symbolic elements in dynamics". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 47: 294–297. 1941. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1941-07443-4. MR 0004099.
  • "The characteristic of a quadratic form for an arbitrary field". Trans. Amer. Math. Soc. 53: 454–462. 1943. doi:10.1090/s0002-9947-1943-0008588-9. MR 0008588.
  • "Expansions of quadratic forms". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 49: 136–141. 1943. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1943-07876-7. MR 0007738.
  • with C. C. Liu: "Signal stabilization of a control system". American Institute of Electrical Engineers, Part II: Applications and Industry, Transactions of the. 78 (2): 96–100. 1959. doi:10.1109/TAI.1959.6371545.
  • with Rangasami Sridhar: "Stability of a nonlinear feedback system in the presence of Gaussian noise". Journal of Fluids Engineering. 84 (1): 61–69. 1962. doi:10.1115/1.3657270.
  • with R. E. Goodson: "Simplification of hydraulic line dynamics by use of infinite products". Journal of Fluids Engineering. 86 (1): 1–8. 1964. doi:10.1115/1.3653102.
  • with Javeed S. Ansari: "Propagation of disturbance in fluid lines". Journal of Fluids Engineering. 89 (2): 415–422. 1967. doi:10.1115/1.3609622.


  • Mathematical engineering analysis. Macmillan. 1950.[4] Dover reprint. 1961.
  • as editor: Frequency response. Macmillan. 1956.
  • Optimal control. Holt, Rinehart and Winston. 1966.
  • as editor: Optimal and self-optimizing control. M.I.T. Press. 1966.
  • with R. C. Boyer: Self-oscillations in sampled-data systems with saturation. Industrial Engineering Bulletin, vol. 50, no. 5. Purdue University, Lafayette, Ind. 1966; 92 pages


  • "Non-linear speed and load governor for alternators." U.S. Patent No. 2,908,826. 13 Oct. 1959.
  • "Method and apparatus for controlling a condition." U.S. Patent No. 2,960,629. 15 Nov. 1960.
  • with Forrest Drake George: "Method and apparatus for hydraulic control systems." U.S. Patent No. 2,931,342. 5 Apr. 1960.
  • with F. D. George: "Hydraulic differentiation." U.S. Patent No. 2,992,650. 18 Jul. 1961.
  • "Hydraulic governors." U.S. Patent No. 3,051,138. 28 Aug. 1962.
  • "Automatic control system." U.S. Patent No. 3,163,813. 29 Dec. 1964.
  • "Hydraulic governor mechanism having plural error detecting means." U.S. Patent No. 3,238,956. 8 Mar. 1966.


  1. ^ a b c Concordia, Charles (1970). "Rufus Oldenburger (1908–1969)". Automatica. 6: 355–356. doi:10.1016/0005-1098(70)90050-6. reprinted in "Remembering a Master". IEEE Control Systems Magazine. August 2010. p. 10.
  2. ^ Rufus Oldenburger at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  3. ^ Oldenburger, Rufus | Institute for Advanced Study
  4. ^ Mises, R. v. "Review: Mathematical Engineering Analysis by Rufus Oldenburger". Science. 114 (2955): 191–192. Bibcode:1951Sci...114R.191O. doi:10.1126/science.114.2955.191.