Back to Ronald's LifeWeb


Ronald F. Probstein, of Brookline, passed away peacefully on Sunday, September 19th at the age of 93 surrounded by family. He was the beloved husband of Irene (Weindling) Probstein.


Born in NYC to Sally Rosenstein and "Honest" Sid Probstein, Ronald spent his youth in Hell's Kitchen, learning statistics from horse racing and fishing for nickels through subway grates.


He graduated from Stuyvesant High School at age 15 before studying engineering at NYU night school and working days for mathematician Richard Courant. He received the first Ph.D. from the Princeton University Department of Aeronautical Engineering and went on to be a full professor at Brown University.


He joined MIT's Mechanical Engineering department in 1962 and remained as Ford Professor of Engineering until retirement in 1996. He played a principal role in some of the most important scientific and technical achievements in the post World War II era including early spacecraft design, ballistic missile reentry physics, the composition of comet tails, alternative energy sources and toxic waste remediation. His books Hypersonic Inviscid Flow (with Wally Hayes), Synthetic Fuels (with Edwin Hicks) and Physicochemical Hydrodynamics remain the reference works on these topics.


He was elected to the National Academy of Science, the National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and received a Guggenheim Fellowship.


When not writing, he was a passionate skier and traveler who enjoyed summering in Truro.


He is survived by Sid Probstein, Laurie (Greer) Probstein and grandchildren Razi, Zeze and Ione, to whom he was quite devoted.