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Morton Mitchner, professor emeritus of mechanical engineering, dies
Morton Mitchner, professor emeritus of mechanical engineering, died Sept. 9 at Stanford Hospital after a lengthy battle with sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. He was 76.
Mitchner taught graduate courses in fluid mechanics, radiative heat transfer and engineering physics at Stanford. "He was a popular thesis adviser to many Ph.D. students, particularly when the topic was on the boundary of mechanical engineering and physics," said Robert Eustis, the Clarence and Patricia Woodard Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Emeritus.
Mitchner was born Jan. 17, 1926, in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he was raised. He received bachelor's and master's degrees in physics from the University of British Columbia in 1947 and 1948, respectively. He earned his doctorate in physics and mathematics from Harvard in 1951.
Following graduate school, Mitchner worked in Boston and then San Francisco as a consultant for Arthur D. Little Inc., in the early years of development of operations research. He then worked for Lockheed Research Division for four years before taking a position as a visiting professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Columbia University. Mitchner was hired as an associate professor at Stanford in 1964.
Mitchner was a founding member of Stanford's High Temperature Gasdynamics Laboratory, which conducted research at the boundaries of classical mechanical engineering, physics and chemistry. In the laboratory, students and engineering faculty looked to him as the principal scientist.
Researchers in this laboratory were particularly interested in the conversion of thermal energy to electrical energy by the magneto-hydrodynamic process. This process utilizes partially ionized gases at high temperatures. Colleagues considered Mitchner the preeminent researcher in the field of partially ionized gases. His studies led to the 1973 book Partially Ionized Gases, written with Professor Charles Kruger, who is currently vice provost and dean of research and graduate policy. This text is still used today by prominent graduate schools.
Mitchner retired from teaching in 1983.
He is survived by his wife of 42 years, Adelle Mitchner of Menlo Park; son Joseph Mitchner of Mountain View; daughter Beth Mitchner of San Francisco; brother Hyman Mitchner of Los Altos; and five grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held Thursday, Sept. 12, at 10:30 a.m. at Congregation Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Road, Los Altos Hills, and will be followed by a private burial. Memorial contributions may be made to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, 10 Brookline Place West, 6th Floor, Brookline, MA 02445 (make checks payable to "Dana Farber-Sarcoma Research") or to a favorite charity.