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Adolf J. Busemann

Dr. Busemann lecturing at CU Boulder.Our laboratory is named after Dr. Adolf Busemann, a German engineer who is known for inventing the famed Busemann Biplane, a vehicle that does not create a sonic boom.

Dr. Busemann was born on April 20th, 1901, in Lübeck, Germany, located in the state of Schbleswig-Holstein, in the north of Germany. He attended the Technische Universität Braunschweig, in the Lower Saxony in Germany, graduating with a PhD in engineering in 1923. A year later, he went on to the Max Planck Institute, working for Ludwig Prandtl. Dr. Prandtl is of course known as the father of modern aerodynamics, having devised many of the mathematical formulas found in textbooks today. At the institute, Busemann worked with the likes of Jakob Ackeret, the first to apply modern aerodynamics to gas turbine design and a teacher of Wernher von Braun, Max Munk, developer of the thin airfoil theory, and Theodore von Kármán, one of the first to characterize supersonic and hypersonic airflow.

In 1930, six years after starting that the Max Planck Institute, Dr. Busemann was offered a professorship at the University of Göttingen, one of Germany's top universities who boast graduates such as Gauss, Riemann, Planck, von Neumann, Heisenbeg, and Fermi. He taught there until World War II broke out in 1939, taking various research positions during the war. It was during this time he came up with the idea of swept wings for airplanes and started work on the delta wing.

Dr. Busemann holding a plane with a swept wing design.After the war, Busemann cooperated with US forces during Operation LUSTY (LUftwaffe Secret TechnologY), helping them obtain much of Germany's aeronautical technology. He emigrated to the US in 1947 and took a position at NACA's (now NASA's) Langley Research Center. At Langley, Busemann worked on many different research problems, including reducing or eliminating wave drag, minimizing sonic booms, and supersonic flow characterization.

In 1963, after leaving Langley, Busemann took a professorship at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He taught here until his death in 1986. Being at CU Boulder gave Busemann a unique opportunity to branch out into new research fields, including space vehicle design, trajectory optimization, and reentry methods. His research at CU Boulder led him to suggest the use of ceramic tiles on the space shuttle to NASA.

Today, Dr. Busemann's legacy and work lives on in the Busemann Advanced Concepts Laboratory. We are working to expand and elaborate on his work in fundamental supersonic fluid flow, high speed vehicle design, sonic boom minimization, and reentry methods.