Robert E. Smith was leader in aeronautical systems, Distinguished Alumnus

Robert E. Smith, Jr., 81, of Manchester, a retired executive who held numerous positions with Sverdrup Technology, Inc., died Sept. 25, 2010 after a brief illness.

Smith received his bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from Vanderbilt University in 1951 and his Master of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Tennessee Space Institute in 1962.

He retired in 1991 as Vice President and Chief Scientist of Sverdrup Technology, Inc. after more than 40 years in various engineering and management positions in the company’s AEDC Group.

He received Distinguished Alumni Awards from Vanderbilt University School of Engineering in 1992 and the University of Tennessee Space Institute in 1998.

In the 1950’s, Smith conceived, designed and developed a thrust measuring system for turbine engines and an airflow measurement system using critical flow venturis. Both of these systems are still internationally-accepted industry standards.

From 1969–1996 he served as an adjunct associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Tennessee Space Institute. He was a U.S. Technical Liaison Representative and Advisor to the Federal Republic of Germany in 1964-65 and a member of the U.S. delegation to NATO’s Advisory Group for Aeronautical Research and Development from 1985 to 1991.

He also served as a special advisor and consultant to the USAF Aeronautical Systems Division Advisory Group, and ad hoc member of numerous committees of the USAF Scientific Advisory Board. He served as a member of more than 15 executive review groups and independent review boards for the USAF, USN, NASA, and FAA, and authored or co-authored more than 25 technical papers, reports and journal articles in the areas of technology, test and evaluation of aerospace propulsion systems.

In 2005, he was named Engineer of the Year by the Nashville chapter of the Tennessee Society of Professional Engineers and was the first engineer from the aerospace field to receive this award.

He was the first recipient of the General H. H. Arnold Award in 1961 from the Tennessee Section of the American Rocket Society. He was named an AEDC Fellow in 1990, and inducted as a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 1988.

Survivors include his wife, Beverly Patterson Smith; three sons, five grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, and two sisters.