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With the passing of Richard T. Whitcomb '43 on Oct. 13, 2009, WPI lost one of its most distinguished alumni.
In an appreciation on its web site, NASA called Dr. Whitcomb "the most significant aerodynamic contributor of the second half of the 20th century." Mr. Whitcomb spent his entire career at Langley Research Center, retiring in 1980 at the age of 59. He is best known as the developer of the Area Rule, which made supersonic flight practical. It was just one of a number of major contributions to aviation design that won him many awards, from the Collier Trophy – aviation's highest honor, to the National Medal of Science, to induction in the Inventors Hall of Fame.
As part of his generous bequest to WPI, Dr. Whitcomb left his impressive lifetime awards – 10 in total – to the university.
The Whitcomb family presented the awards to WPI on Feb. 12, 2010. This video is from a reception that includes remarks from family members and WPI staff.
For more information on Whitcomb, read this press release on the Feb. 12 event.