Thomas J. Muller, professor emeritus of aerospace and mechanical engineering at the University of Notre Dame and a leading authority on aerodynamics, died Sunday (Dec. 4). He was 88 years old.
A native of Chicago, Mueller entered Notre Dame’s Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering in 1965 after earning a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology and a doctorate from the University of Illinois. In 1989 he was named the Roth-Gibson Professor of Aerospace Engineering.
Mueller greatly enhanced Notre Dame’s reputation in aeronautical research. In the 1970s, after making contributions to the understanding of blood flow in artificial heart valves, he began investigating new problem areas in aerodynamics. He was particularly interested in the complex circulation of air around various airfoils, and his work in this area brought him international recognition from researchers in fluid dynamics.
“Professor Thomas J. Muller was a world-renowned experimental aerodynamicist who considered flow over airfoils at low and high Mach numbers and developed methods of flow visualization,” said Joseph Powers, professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering.
Muller was a gifted teacher who taught at Notre Dame for 40 years.
“I had the privilege of having Tom as a professor and research advisor during my undergraduate days,” said David Go, Viola D. Hank Professor and Chair of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at Notre Dame. “Tom was not only a brilliant aerodynamicist, he was a kind and helpful mentor whose influence on our department continues to this day.”
The young faculty also benefited from Muller’s mentorship.
“Tom was a great colleague and one of my mentors when I started my career at Notre Dame,” said Scott Morris, professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering and director of the Institute for Flow Physics and Control. “He was passionate about aerospace engineering and wanted the best education for our students.”
Müller also made significant contributions to his department’s graduate program. He served as director of engineering research and graduate studies from 1985 to 1989, and as department chair from 1988 to 1996.
Muller published several books and numerous articles in scholarly journals including the AIAA Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets and the ASME Journal of Biomechanical Engineering. He was a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the Royal Aeronautical Society.
He is survived by two daughters, three sons and nine grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Monday (December 12) at 3:30 pm in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Notre Dame. A visitation will be from 2 to 3 PM at Palmer Funeral Home-Hickey Chapel, 17131 Cleveland Road, South Bend.