Robert A. Gross

Welcome

The Columbia Engineering community mourns the loss and celebrates the life of Robert A. Gross, a scientist, educator, and leader. Professor Gross served as the School’s 11th dean from 1982 until 1990. He passed away on February 8 at his home in Chapel Hill....

Robert A. Gross

Date of Death:
February 08, 2018
Location:
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States

Obituary

The Columbia Engineering community mourns the loss and celebrates the life of Robert A. Gross, a scientist, educator, and leader. Professor Gross served as the School’s 11th dean from 1982 until 1990. He passed away on February 8 at his home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He was 90 years old.

Robert Gross joined Columbia as a Professor of Engineering Science in 1960, having already made significant contributions to the field of supersonic combustion and shock dynamics while an engineer at Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corp. His work in combustion was recognized with the Waverly Gold Medal for New Research and AIAA G. Pendray award.

At Columbia, he explored the emerging field of plasma physics and controlled fusion research. With C.K. “John” Chu, he co-founded in 1962 the Columbia Plasma Physics Laboratory which carried out sponsored research of $2 million per year for 30 years and trained more than 100 scientists and engineers. He took great pleasure teaching and advising his students including 25 doctoral candidates, many of who he continued to mentor throughout their careers. He was also recognized for his excellence in teaching by the Society of Columbia Graduates who honored him in 1974 with the Great Teacher Award. Gross also wrote a seminal textbook, Fusion Energy.

Through his research, Gross became a worldwide authority in plasma shock phenomena and the equilibrium and stability of high pressure magnetized plasma systems. He served on numerous Department of Energy advisory committees that defined the direction of fusion power research in the United States.

After serving three years as founding chair of Columbia’s Department of Applied Physics and Nuclear Engineering and six years as chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department, Gross was named the 11th dean of Columbia School of Engineering and Applied Science.

As dean, he established one of the first National Science and Technology Centers awarded by the National Science Foundation in the area of telecommunications research. Building on this initiative, Dean Gross envisioned a new research building to provide modern experimental research facilities for telecommunications, microelectronics, and computer and information systems. He successfully raised $36 million in a 40-year no-interest loan and $6 million gift from the State of New York, allowing Columbia to build a new research facility. Morris A. Schapiro Hall, or the Center for Engineering Physical Science Research, opened in 1992.

Together with his wife, Elee K. Gross, Prof. Gross spent countless hours with undergraduate and graduate students not only during the day, but also at their home in New Rochelle and then later as residents of East Campus and at their apartment on Riverside Drive. His focus on encouraging students, especially those from less privileged backgrounds and those from abroad, was in large part the reason he was so pleased that his former students and others created the Robert A. Gross Scholarship Fund.  


Prof. Gross was not just a man of science, but he loved a good political discussion and, with his wife Elee, they were legionary for their attendance, for decades, at Columbia football home games regardless of the weather, and for their passion for attending concerts and enjoying theater.

During his sabbaticals, Prof. Gross — who loved to travel around the world — taught and studied at Leiden University (Netherlands), Stanford University (California) and at the University of Sydney and Flinders University (Australia).

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania in 1949, Gross earned his Ph.D. in applied physics from Harvard in 1952.  Over the course of his career, he received numerous honors, including the Guggenheim Fellowship and the Fulbright-Hays Fellowship twice. He was a Fellow of the American Physical Society and a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He was honored for his life's work by Fusion Power Associates in 1993.

Robert Gross, the Percy K. and Vida L.W. Hudson Professor of Applied Physics, retired from Columbia Engineering in 1995.
 
To leave a condolence, enter your message then click "Post message".

3000 characters remaining.

Click here to view all condolences in the Guestbook

Invite friends and family to share their memories and contribute content to this memorial.

About This Tribute

Tribute created by:
APAM Department
Tribute account type:
Obituary (Lifetime)

Visits to this site: 259

*Upgrade this tribute to remove this advertisement

Latest Tribute Activity

May 08, 2018

Rush Holt signed the guestbook:
“Please pass along to the family of Bob Gross my si...” 
Read the full message...

April 30, 2018

John C. Wright signed the guestbook:
“I was just learning about plasma physics in the 19...” 
Read the full message...

April 27, 2018

Farhad C. signed the guestbook:
“I am fortunate to have attended as a graduate stud...” 
Read the full message...
Mike Mauel signed the guestbook:
“I'm grateful for today's Celebration of the Life a...” 
Read the full message...

April 20, 2018

Siu-Wai Chan gave a gift:
“Thank you for your life-long contribution to Colu...” 
Read the full message...

March 01, 2018

APAM Department added the event “Robert A. Gross”:
“The APAM Department will host a memorial service ...” 
Click for full event details...
APAM Department updated the obituary:
“The Columbia Engineering community mourns the los......” 
Read the full Obituary...

February 28, 2018

APAM Department added an obituary:
“The Columbia Engineering community mourns the los......” 
Read the full Obituary...

*Upgrade this tribute to remove this advertisement

©2018 Your Tribute, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Please Upgrade Your Browser

This site's design is only visible in a graphical browser that supports web standards, but its content is accessible to any browser or Internet device.