John Edwards, an internationally respected NASA aeronautics engineer and loving husband, father, and grandfather, passed away in Williamsburg on June 3, 2011, after a long and brave struggle with cancer.
He was born July 8, 1939 in Colfax, Iowa, and spent his youth in Iowa and Portland, Ore. He graduated from Yale University, in 1961, and held a Ph.D., in aeronautics and astronautics from Stanford University.
He served in the Peace Corps, in Ethiopia, as a physics teacher, from 1963 to 1965. In 1965, he began work for NASA, in aircraft flight control systems, at Dryden Flight Research Center in California. In 1980, he transferred to NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, where he was a senior research engineer in the Aeroelasticity Branch. After retiring from NASA, in 2007, he continued his research there as a Distinguished Researcher, Emeritus. He was recognized as an international authority in the fields of flight control systems analysis and design, and aeroelastic analysis and testing. He was also well-liked and respected as a friend and colleague at NASA and among international leaders in the aviation industry. His career achievements included more than 80 technical publications, and solving critical problems in programs ranging from the B-2 bomber to the Space Shuttle. He was elected as Fellow in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, in recognition for his significant contribution to the nation's preeminence in aviation.
Of his work, Prof. Peretz Friedman of the University of Michigan stated, "John Edwards was the first to formulate unsteady aerodynamic loads. Subsequently, John devoted himself to computational aeroelasticity in which field he has become an undisputed leader and elder statesman."
His unique expertise played a significant role in the Space Shuttle program. He designed a digital filter to quench pilot-induced oscillations upon landing, which has been active on all orbital missions of the Space Shuttle, and for which he received a patent and several awards. After the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia, he led a team in testing and analysis of the foam ramps on the external tanks, which contributed to decisions that allowed the Shuttle return to flight.
He had many hobbies, including photography and woodworking, and was an accomplished chef. He was a patient and caring father, who encouraged his daughters to be independent. His curious and open mind, and his love of travel and history, inspired his entire family.
Preceding him in death are his father, Lewis Edwards; mother, Zola Edwards Cole; and brother, Robert Edwards.
He is survived by the love of his life and wife of 44 years, Addy Edwards of Williamsburg; two daughters, Susan Edwards and her husband, Scott Cargle of Los Angeles, and Mary Edwards and her wife, Jill Massa of Boston; and three grandsons, Colin, Matthew, and Thomas.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, June 9, at Nelsen Funeral Home in Williamsburg, preceded by a gathering at 10 a.m.
The family asks that donations be made, in memory of him, to Massey Cancer Center at VCU.
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