University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota: Department of Mechanical Engineering

In memoriam: Ephraim M. Sparrow
(May 27, 1928 - August 1, 2019)

Morse Alumni Distinguished Teaching Professor
College of Science and Engineering Distinguished Professor
Member, National Academy of Engineering (NAE)


Ephraim Sparrow was a highly respected Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Minnesota known worldwide for his significant contributions to all aspects of heat transfer and fluid mechanics. He received his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1948 and 1949. He then went on to obtain his Master of Arts in 1950 and Ph.D. in 1952, from Harvard University Mechanical Engineering Department.

After the completion of his Ph.D., he worked briefly for Raytheon Company as a Thermal Applications Engineering on various electronic devices including the thermal design of the first microwave oven. Later, in 1953, Professor Sparrow joined the NACA (now known as NASA) Lewis Research Center in Cleveland Ohio. At the Lewis Research Center, he worked on many projects in the area of heat transfer and fluid mechanics, including spacecraft propulsion systems.

In November of 1959 Professor Sparrow joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Minnesota after being recruited by Professor Ernst Eckert. Over the years he has advised over 100 doctoral theses, and more than 250 masters students, and published over 750 technical research papers in archival journals. Over the course of his career, Professor Sparrow was the recipient of many prestigious awards and honors. From 1966 to 1967, Professor Sparrow went to Brazil to assist with the development of graduate programs in engineering and was awarded an Honorary doctorate from the University of Brazil. Later he was named a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in 1976 and a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 1986. His colleagues in ASME honored his achievements with the Max Jakob Memorial Award (1977), the highest award given in the Heat Transfer Division, and the Ralph Coates Roe Medal (1978) in recognition of his outstanding contribution toward understanding and appreciation of the engineer’s worth to society.

In addition to his engineering accomplishments, Professor Sparrow was the recipient of multiple awards in recognition of his outstanding teaching. He received the Monie A. Ferst Award (1993) by the scientific research honorary society Sigma Xi for his inspiring engineering teaching, National Technological University Outstanding Instructor Award in 1994, and multiple teaching awards from the University of Minnesota.

Professor Sparrow was listed as an ISI Highly Cited Author in Engineering during the 1970s and early 1980s by the ISI Web of Knowledge and wrote and/or contributed to several books including the classical engineering text Radiation Heat Transfer with R. D. Cess. Professor Sparrow served as the senior editor of the ASME Journal of Heat Transfer from 1972 to 1980, co-founded the Journal of Numerical Heat Transfer, and was a member of the editorial boards for the International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer and of the International Communications in Heat and Mass Transfer. In more recent years, Professor Sparrow was an editor of the Handbook of Numerical Heat Transfer, Advances in Numerical Heat Transfer, and Advances in Heat Transfer.

Key to Professor Sparrow’s success in teaching was his belief that learning is continuous interaction between instructor and students. Professor Sparrow’s teaching emphasis was on computationally based courses, solving complex problems that include fluid flow, heat transfer, structures, particle flows, fluid-structure interactions and fluid-thermal-structure interactions. He believed a combination of complementary experimental and numerical methods was the best approach to solving engineering problems.

In recent years, Professor Sparrow enjoyed being a generalist, and working on industrial applications over a very broad range of problems over all of mechanical engineering.

Please submit condolences for his family at this link>