Ralph E. Phin­ney, aerospace engi­neer

Baltimore Sun - - OBITUARIES -

Ralph Ed­ward Phin­ney, a re­tired aerospace engi­neer and re­searcher, died Nov. 20 from heart fail­ure at Spring­well Se­nior Liv­ing in Mount Wash­ing­ton. The for­mer long­time Bolton Hill res­i­dent was


He was the son of My­ron “Mike” Phin­ney, an oil wild­cat­ter, and Marie Fore­man Phin­ney, a postal worker and a sales as­so­ciate.

He was born near Cleve­land, Ohio, but be­cause of the na­ture of his fa­ther’s work in Ohio and Michi­gan oil fields, his fam­ily moved of­ten. He was a 1945 grad­u­ate of Al­le­gan High School in Al­le­gan, Mich.

He grad­u­ated in 1949 from the Univer­sity of Michi­gan, where he re­ceived a de­gree in aerospace en­gi­neer­ing. He also re­ceived a Ph.D in aerospace en­gi­neer­ing from the univer­sity in 1952.

He served in the Army in 1952 and 1953 and was de­ployed at Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground, where he worked in wind tun­nel re­search.

From 1954 to 1959, he was a post­doc­toral re­search sci­en­tist at the Johns Hop­kins Re­search Lab­o­ra­tory un­der Dr. Mark V. Morkovin, an ex­pert in in­sta­bil­ity, tran­si­tion and tur­bu­lence who later worked at Martin-Marietta Corp. in Mid­dle River.

Dr. Phin­ney sub­se­quently worked at Martin-Marietta from 1959 to 1967 un­der Dr. Morkovin, then joined the staff of what was ini­tially the Naval Ord­nance Lab­o­ra­tory in Sil­ver Spring, later called the Naval Sur­face War­fare Cen­ter.

Like his men­tor, Dr. Phin­ney con­cen­trated his re­search in the fields of in­sta­bil­ity, tran­si­tion and tur­bu­lence.

He was “was widely pub­lished in tech­ni­cal jour­nals for his work, in­clud­ing early re­search on the phys­i­cal ef­fects of vis­cous jets and near-sonic shocks on air­craft,” wrote his daugh­ter, Su­san Phin­ney Sil­ver of Palo Alto, Calif., in a bi­o­graph­i­cal pro­file of her fa­ther.

“Some of his most in­flu­en­tial re­search fo­cused on the phys­i­cal prop­er­ties of ob­jects en­coun­ter­ing lam­i­nar vis­cous jets, in which he doc­u­mented the ‘Phin­ney Fac­tor’ that oc­curred be­yond the bound­ary con­di­tions that oth­ers were study­ing at the time.”

He re­tired in 1993.

A res­i­dent of West Lan­vale Street from 1962 un­til a re­cent move to the Mount Wash­ing­ton se­nior com­mu­nity, Dr. Phin­ney en­joyed “cre­ative hob­bies,” his daugh­ter said. “These in­cluded pho­tog­ra­phy, dig­i­tized art prints, mak­ing stained-glass works and ren­o­vat­ing projects with his son, Mike.”

He en­joyed sail­ing and ex­plor­ing the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, and for years had been a mem­ber and trea­surer of the Fells Point Yacht Club. He also was an avid bridge player.

A me­mo­rial ser­vice will be held at 2 p.m. Dec. 29 at Me­mo­rial Epis­co­pal Church, 1407 Bolton St., Bolton Hill.

In ad­di­tion to his daugh­ter and wife of 57 years, the for­mer Deb­o­rah “Debby” Cush­ing, Dr. Phin­ney is sur­vived by a son, My­ron “Mike” Phin­ney of Reser­voir Hill; and two grand­chil­dren.

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