MIT model explains how the brain can learn novel tasks while still remembering what it has already learned.
Professor Edward F. Crawley, an expert in the design, dynamics and control of spacecraft and space structures, has been named head of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, his academic home since his student days at MIT, which began in 1972.
His appointment, effective July 1, was announced by Dean Robert A. Brown of the School of Engineering.
Professor Crawley brings to the position "the respect and admiration of the faculty for his contributions to research and education and for his vision of the future of the discipline," Dean Brown said.
Dean Brown, who also announced that Professor Edward Greitzer has agreed to serve as associate head of the department, said he was confident that the department will continue to have "outstanding leadership" in the years ahead.
Professor Crawley succeeds Professor Earll M. Murman, department head since 1990, and Professor Greitzer succeeds Professor Daniel E. Hastings as associate head.
Professor Crawley, highly regarded for his teaching as well as for his research, has been a MacVicar Faculty Fellow since 1992. He has directed the Space Engineering Research Center since 1986 and since 1994 he has been co-director of the Systems Design and Management Program. All his degrees are from MIT: the SB in 1976, the SM in 1978 and the ScD in 1980.
Professor Crawley is a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and was a member in 1993 of the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Space Station Redesign. Not all of his interests aloft are in space, however. He is the current New England Regional Sailplane Racing champion.
An early and effective advocate of US-Russian cooperation in space exploration, he was instrumental in 1989 in lifting the veil of secrecy from an important piece of space history. While on a visit to a Moscow museum with other MIT faculty members, Professor Crawley saw, off to one side, a device that drew his attention. A sign, in Russian, with which he is conversant, said, "Luna Lander." It was, their host confirmed, the craft that the Russians had hoped would beat the United States to the moon. For years, the Soviets had denied, "by silence and misninformation," as the New York Times' subsequent account of the revelation put it, that they had been racing America to be the first to land people on the moon. The MIT visitors were allowed to photograph the lander.
MIT has had an aeronautics program since 1913. The aviation and space pioneers associated with the program (which became an academic department in 1933) include the late Jerome C. Hunsaker, James Doolittle and Charles Stark Draper.
The department has 40 faculty and senior research staff, including the current Secretary of the Air Force, Professor Sheila E. Widnall, who is on leave from her faculty post.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 5, 1996.