Edwin Roger Fitzgerald, Hopkins professor

Colleges and UniversitiesScienceUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonPeabody ConservatoryJohns Hopkins UniversityThe Pennsylvania State University

Edwin Roger Fitzgerald, a retired professor had taught in the Johns Hopkins University's mechanics and materials department for nearly 40 years and whose hobby was farming, died May 11 of complications from a stroke at Gilchrist Hospice in Towson.

The Parkton resident was 88.

The son of Irish immigrants — his father was a principal and mother a teacher — he was born and raised in Oshkosh, Wis.

He was 16 when he graduated from Oshkosh High School in 1939, and then entered Oshkosh State Teachers College for a year before enrolling at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

While at Wisconsin, he met and fell in love with Carolyn Johnson, a physical education major, whom he married in 1946.

Dr. Fitzgerald earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1944 from the University of Wisconsin, and then went to work for the B.F. Goodrich Tire Co. in Akron, Ohio.

He returned to the University of Wisconsin, where he earned a master's degree in 1951 in physics and, a year later, his doctorate in physics.

Dr. Fitzgerald began teaching at the University of Wisconsin and then joined the faculty of Pennsylvania State University in State College in 1953.

In 1961, Dr. Fitzgerald came to Homewood when he began teaching in the mechanics and materials department.

"His research was in the mechanical and dielectric properties of solids, including dynamic mechanical properties of violin wood in relation to tone qualities of violins, viscoelastic properties of marine mammal tissues and dynamic mechanical measurements during freezing and thawing of ice," said a son, Roger Fitzgerald, a Hampstead electrical engineer.

Dr. Fitzgerald designed and built what he called the "Fitzgerald Apparatus," which he used to make dynamic mechanical measurements on a variety of materials that included wood, polymers, rubber and animal tissues.

"It was a big black box that measured 3 by 5 feet and had lots of dials on it. It was transportable," said Fred Davidson, a Hopkins colleague and longtime friend.

"Ed was basically a professor of mechanics and the study of properties and materials. He became famous for the development of his apparatus that could measure the properties of many things. He did work for the Navy on things that went in the water, he did work for the Peabody Conservatory of Music, and many others," Dr. Davidson said.

"He was able to make measurements no others could do for quite a while," he said.

He said that Dr. Fitzgerald had taught a variety of courses.

"He ran the programs in his department for a number of years, and he taught the kids many things," said Dr. Davidson. "He was tough on them, but they respected him. They appreciated that he had made them work hard because he wanted them to learn the material."

Dr. Fitzgerald developed a reputation for being something of a "campus curmudgeon."

"Let's say he was an independent person," Dr. Davidson said with a laugh.

"He didn't always see eye-to-eye with the administration when it came to deciding what should or should not be done," he said. "But he always did it in a polite and civil way."

Dr. Fitzgerald's laboratory had been in the basement of Latrobe Hall and was filled with equipment from the 1950s and 1960s, Dr. Davidson said.

"Hopkins used to have free campus parking, which was always at a premium and it was tough to find a spot, and Ed always liked parking right outside of Latrobe, which was a few steps away from his lab," said Dr. Davidson.

After Latrobe had been renovated, parking became more difficult, but Dr. Fitzgerald continued to park where he wanted and became something of a problem for campus security.

"It was rumored that Ed carried a can of spray paint in his car. He'd find an unmarked spot, get out, and then spray two lines down the side of his car," Dr. Davidson said, laughing. "It was the kind of thing that you could count on Ed doing."

"He was never nasty about it and had a good sense of humor, but he was always bugging me about parking. It was a problem for the professors," said Robert L. Larkin, a former major in the city's Southeastern District, who became head of security at Homewood in 1975.

"One day, we began installing parking meters, and put one where his car was parked and where there hadn't previously been one," Mr. Larkin said, laughing.

"Campus police then gave him several tickets for an expired meter, and he came into my office waving a handful of tickets saying, 'What's this? What's this?'" he said.

Dr. Fitzgerald was the author of numerous scholarly articles in his field and wrote the book "Particle Waves and Deformation in Crystalline Solids," which was published in 1966.

Even though he retired from Hopkins in 1999, he continued conducting research into properties of materials in a laboratory in his Parkton home.

While living in Ruxton, Dr. Fitzgerald enjoyed farming on his 51/2-acre farm, where he also raised quarter horses, collies and German shepherds.

Outgrowing the space, he and his family moved in 1976 to an 118-acre Parkton farm he named Walnut Hill Farm, after his old Ruxton farm.

He grew corn, soybeans and wheat, and planted trees.

He enjoyed trail riding at Prettyboy Reservoir with his family. He was also an avid sailor and competed in annual races in Door County, Wis., on Lake Michigan.

A private memorial service will be held in June in Wisconsin.

In addition to his wife and son, Dr. Fitzgerald is survived by two other sons, Doug Fitzgerald of Fish Creek, Wis., and Tim Fitzgerald of Mercer, Wis.; four daughters, Lucia Barger of Accident, Margaret Ahrendt of Parkton, Alice Chomeau of Golden, Colo., and Jane Griffith of Houghton, Mich.; 11 grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren. Another son, William Fitzgerald, died in 1986.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Comments
Loading