UC Berkeley News
Press Release

UC Berkeley Press Release

Lawrence Talbot, professor emeritus of mechanical engineering, dies at age 79

– Lawrence Talbot, a University of California, Berkeley, emeritus professor of mechanical engineering known for his work in fluid mechanics, died March 19 of heart failure. He was 79.

Lawrence Talbot
Lawrence Talbot

Talbot joined the UC Berkeley Department of Mechanical Engineering in 1951, doing work in high altitude and high speed aerodynamics that was largely used in satellite design and use. Talbot worked on rarefied gas dynamics in what was then known on campus as the Division of Aeronautical Sciences at a time when the division was well known for its work in that field.

UC Berkeley mechanical engineering professor Stanley Berger called him "an outstanding experimental scientist."

In the late 1960s, Talbot turned his attention to bioengineering in the early days of that field, working on fluid dynamics of the body's blood. In the 1960s and for decades thereafter, Berger worked closely on bioengineering with Talbot, who had been a mentor to him.

"We were among the pioneers on this campus - we essentially introduced biofluid dynamics here," said Berger.

Talbot also did research in shock structure, combustion and flames, and real gas effects before he retired in 1991.

In the last 20 years of his life, including during his retirement, Talbot worked with colleagues at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory on his research in turbulent combustion and flames. This work combined theoretical analyses, computational modeling, and experiments employing state-of-the art laser-based optical diagnostics. This research led to improved efficiency of gas turbine engines while reducing emissions of pollutants.

Over the years, Talbot was awarded several honors and awards. He was a Miller Research Professor in 1960-61, a Guggenheim Scholar in 1967-68 and a fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Talbot, who earned his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan, was a visiting fellow at All Souls College at Oxford University from 1967 to 1968 and a research scholar at Magdalen College at Oxford University from 1975 to 1976.

Talbot particularly liked working with students, mentoring and supervising many Ph.D. students who went on to successful careers in academia, industry and government.

Talbot was known for his gregarious and optimistic nature, friends said. He was also an enthusiastic downhill skier and golf player, and he climbed the Matterhorn in 1962.

"He had a very relaxed manner. There was no pretense about him, no ego . and he always had a smile on his face," said Berger. "He was so open and cheerful, always seeing the bright side of things."

A memorial service will be held at the UC Berkeley Faculty Club on Wednesday, May 18, from 4-7 p.m. in the Great Hall.

Talbot is survived by his wife of 45 years, Vivian Talbot of Berkeley; stepson, Wiles Edison of Santa Rosa, Calif.; and two grandchildren, Julian and Nathaniel. He was preceded in death by his son, James, in 1977.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Agua Para La Vida, 2311 Webster St., Berkeley, CA 94705 or the American Lung Association.