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I-Dee Chang

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I-Dee Chang Obituary


I-Dee Chang

Resident of Stanford

A Stanford University professor of aeronautics and astronautics for 30 years and an eminent figure in fluid dynamics and applied mathematics, passed away Jan. 27, 2011, after a prolonged illness. He was beloved not only by his family but also by students, colleagues and friends, who appreciated his broad perspective, inquiring mind and enthusiastic personality.

Born in Anhui, China, on March 21, 1922, I-Dee was the second of six children. When the Sino-Japanese War broke out in 1937, he was forced to quit school and flee to southwest China. After resuming his studies, he was admitted to the prestigious National Central University, from which he received a B.S. in aeronautic engineering in 1944. He served in the Nationalist Chinese Air Force during World War II, developing a deep interest in airplanes and rockets. After returning to Nanjing after the war, he wrote popular science articles for the newspaper, and at age 24 wrote two books, "Rockets" and "Interesting Tales of Aviation," the first popular science books on aeronautics and astronautics ever published in Chinese.

In 1948, following the retreat of the Chinese Nationalist Government from mainland China, he moved to Taiwan and spent the next five years working in southern Taiwan, first as a high school teacher and later as an engineer. At age 32 he finally came to the United States, where he remained the rest of his life. He received a scholarship to Kansas State University, where he received an M.S. in engineering mechanics in 1955. He then began his doctoral studies in aeronautics at Princeton University, later transferring to Caltech to work under Professor P.A. Lagerstrom. He obtained his Ph.D. in aeronautics in 1959 and remained at Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for the next three years as a research associate. During this period, he authored and co-authored a number of theoretical papers. He was credited with fundamental studies on singular perturbation theory and its application to fluid mechanics. In 1962, he joined Stanford's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, where over the next 30 years he taught several thousand students and directed more than 100 doctoral students. His research areas included applied mathematics, continuum mechanics and applications of physics of fluids to biology. In 1992, he retired from his position, though he remained an active professor emeritus.

In 1996, I-Dee suffered an injury to his spinal cord and was partially paralyzed. But his mind remained as active as ever. I-Dee loved life, and he never lost hope, maintaining his positive attitude and confidence in the future. He far surpassed his doctors' expectations, continuing for many years to enjoy his longtime passion for space exploration, taking great pleasure in watching Star Trek and other science fiction series. Even during the last several years, when he frequently became ill, he never once complained. Through all of this, he was sustained by the unwavering love and support of his wife Alice, who cared for him day and night for nearly 14 years.

I-Dee is survived by his wife Alice, his brothers Yijün, Yijie and I-Cheng Chang, three nephews and three nieces. Friends, colleagues and students are invited to a memorial and reception to be held at 9:00 a.m., Thursday, February 24, 2011, at the Alta Mesa Memorial Park, 695 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto, CA 94306. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the .
Published in San Jose Mercury News/San Mateo County Times on Feb. 23, 2011
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