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In memoriam: alumnus, professor and path-breaker Lit Han remembered

Professor Lit HanProfessor Lit Han in 1975The Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering celebrates the life and contributions of Professor Lit Han. Colleagues recall Han as a consummate professor and an engaging and inspiring figure in the fields of fluid mechanics and heat transfer.

Born and raised in Shanghai, China, Han moved to the United States in 1947 to pursue his master’s and doctoral degrees at Ohio State. After earning his PhD in 1954, he enjoyed a long career at the university serving as a lecturer, assistant professor, associate professor and full professor before his retirement. Han passed away in 2017.

Much of Han’s research at Ohio State, both theoretical and experimental, was sponsored by the Wright Patterson Air Force Base. According to close departmental colleague, Professor Seppo Korpela, Han’s “imposing wind tunnel to study the flow through a turbine blade cascade was hard to miss on the first floor of the old Robinson Laboratory.”

For Han, teaching was life. During his long career at Ohio State, “he developed graduate courses on convection heat transfer at a time when such courses were not common in American universities,” said Korpela. “I fondly remember Lit Han as a scholar and a path-breaker, and I benefited greatly from his mentorship.”

“The most enduring advice he gave me was to make sure that a research problem for PhD students was both workable and respectable,” continued Korpela. “I have always passed on this advice, and I hope in this way to continue Han’s legacy far beyond his own life as one of the past great teachers in our department.”

At the end of a long and active teaching career, Han retired from the university in 1987. However his work didn’t stop there. The same year he moved to Los Altos, California, where began a second career working at the Lockheed Missiles and Space Company. After his second retirement, Han fueled his passion for sharing knowledge by serving as a substitute teacher in the Palo Alto School District.

Han’s honors include being recipient of the College of Engineering’s Charles McQuigg Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1978. In addition to his teaching and research commitments, Han served as a consultant for the U.S. Air Force, the Office of Naval Research, Bell Laboratories, Battelle Memorial Institute and NASA.

Lit Han excerptA department publication from the 1960's recognizes Han for his contributions.With contributions from Professors Seppo Korpela and Michael Moran