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David Gordon Wilson

Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering

Room 3-256
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02139-4307
Phone: 617-253-5121  
Fax: 617-253-3484  

Curriculum Vitae


B.Sc., 1st class honours, 1948 University of Birmingham; Ph.D. 1953 University of Nottingham


Honors and Awards

Brush Research Fellowship, 1950-1952; T. Bernard Hall Prize, Inst. Mech. Eng., 1954; Lord Weir First Prize, Inst. Mech. Eng., 1955; Commonwealth Fund fellowship, 1955-57; I-R 100 Award, 1974; Reclamation Industries International Prize, 1974


Personal Interests

Human-powered vehicles; hiking; tennis; music; policy studies.


Personal Statement

Dave Wilson was born and educated in Warwickshire, England. He first crossed the Atlantic in 1953, working his way in the engine room of a cargo boat on the Glasgow-Montreal run. In 1955 he was awarded a post-doctoral Commonwealth-Fund fellowship for study and research at MIT and Harvard. He also worked for a few months as a turbine engineer at Boeing. After returning to work in Britain in the gas-turbine industry he taught for two years in Nigeria and assisted briefly with the VSOs (the British precursor of the US Peace Corps) in what were then the Cameroons. For six years before joining the MIT faculty in 1966 he was technical director and vice president of Northern Research and Engineering Corporation in London and in Massachusetts.

At MIT Dave Wilson taught engineering design and turbomachinery and heat-exchanger design and supervised research in design and in power-and-propulsion projects.

Dave is a co-founder and past-president of MASH (Massachusetts Action on Smoking and Health), a group that worked for nonsmokers' rights. He is a keen hiker and bicyclist, a former president of the International Human-Powered-Vehicle Association, and was editor of its journal Human Power from 1984 - 2002. (The Avatar-2000, a recumbent bicycle he co-designed, was used to win, twice, the world bicycle speed record.) As a consultant to Abiomed Inc. he designed the centrifugal pump used in Abiocor, the world's first artificial heart. In 2001 a group of MIT people ("Ignite") joined him to form Wilson TurboPower Inc., a startup part-owned by MIT, with the aim of developing and producing very-high-efficiency regenerative heat exchangers and gas turbines (now, alas, defunct). Dave was chair of the board of Common Cause, Massachusetts, in 2003, a group trying to reintroduce democracy into Massachusetts politics.


Positions Held

Brush fellow at Nottingham University, 1950-53; seventh engineer-officer, RMS Corinaldo, Donaldson Line 1953; engineer, gas turbines, Brush Elec. Eng. Co.Ltd., UK, 1953-55; Visiting Commonwealth-Fund Fellow, MIT and Harvard, 1955-57; visiting engineer, gas turbines, Boeing Airplane Company, 1956-57; senior gas-turbine designer, Ruston & Hornsby, UK, 1957-58; senior lecturer, mechanical engineering, Univ. Ibadan (Zaria), Nigeria, 1958-60; VP & technical director, Northern Research & Engineering Corp, UK & US, 1960-66; associate professor of mechanical engineering, 1966-71; professor of mechanical engineering, 1971-1994; emeritus professor 1994 - present; head, systems and design division, 1974-1977; undergraduate officer, 1979-1994; chair, IAP policy committee, 1986-1988; interim head, Office of Minority Education, 1994-95; faculty director, MITES (Minority Introduction To Engineering and Science), 1995-97; president and CTO of Wilson TurboPower Inc., Woburn MA, 2001 - 2009; editor, Human Power (the technical journal of the IHPVA) 1984-2002; associate editor, Jl. Power and Energy (Proc. pt.A, Inst. Mech. E.) 1999 - 2009. Commentator and interviewer, WGBH News (Louis Lyons and AAAS meeting, Boston, December 1969) 1969-70.


Research Interests

Design; power and propulsion; energy; turbomachinery; human power; engineering economics and public policy; transportation; environment


Society Memberships

Institution of Mechanical Engineers; American Society of Mechanical Engineers; American Society for Engineering Education


Teaching Interests

Engineering design; gas-turbine and heat-exchanger design


Recent research activities

Heart-pump design: Abiomed Inc.
Gas-turbine hybrid engines: Lincoln Laboratory.
Regenerator development (patents awarded): MIT
Multimedia design instructional systems (EDICS): National Science Foundation.
Exhaust-heated cycles for coal-burning gas turbines: US Dept. of Energy.
Improvements to axial-flow-turbine preliminary design: GE Aircraft
Engines, Lynn, MA.
Nozzle-rotor wake-interaction study (T.P. Korakianitis): GE Aircraft
Engines, Lynn, MA.
High-efficiency Brayton-cycle engines: Department of Commerce.
Two-phase flow in centrifugal pumps: Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory.


Books published

GAS-TURBINE REGENERATORS (with D. S. Beck), Chapman & Hall, 1996;
HUMAN-POWERED VEHICLES (with Allan Abbott), Human Kinetic Publishers, 1995;
THE DESIGN OF GAS-TURBINE ENGINES, International Gas Turbine Institute, 1991;
edition The MIT Press, 1984; second edition (with T.P.Korakianitis) Prentice-Hall 1997 & The MIT Press, 2014;
Ballinger, 1981;
BICYCLING SCIENCE, first edition 1974, second edition 1982, third edition, 2004, The MIT Press;
SOLID-WASTE-MANAGEMENT HANDBOOK (editor & co-author), Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1977;
THE TREATMENT AND MANAGEMENT OF URBAN SOLID WASTE (editor & co-author), Technomic, 1972.


Policy studies

For unexplained reasons, after being invited to join the mechanical-engineering department, Wilson was not permitted to work in his specialities of heat transfer and turbine design during the first six years, but was required to become involved in such fields as traffic safety and solid-waste management. He was also repeatedly denied a laboratory for his and his students' research efforts. He protested by taking a leave of absence in an Urban Fellowship with a Massachusetts legislative commission. He found himself becoming enthusiastic about policy.  This is offered to explain the major efforts he made subsequently to bring about improved policies in such areas as energy use and research and pollutant emissions.


For more information on his policy work, see <A HREF="">his&nbsp;website</A>.





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