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A. J. J. van Woerkom (1915–1991)

Published onSep 01, 1991
A. J. J. van Woerkom (1915–1991)

A. J. J. van Woerkom, known to his friends as "Jos", died on July 8, 1991, at the age of 75 in Yale-New Haven Hospital after a brief illness. From 1972 to 1990 he was Chief Scientist in the Office of the Technical Director of the Naval Underwater Systems Center in New London, Connecticut. Prior to that he served for 16 years at the Electric Boat Company as technical director and later program manager of primary research efforts which underlie present submarine integrated combat systems. While there in the late 50's, he introduced computers into engineering, scientific and business systems, and applications to the development of tactical weapons systems for submarines.

Born October 3, 1915 in Werkendam, the Netherlands, van Woerkom began his professional life as an astronomer specializing in celestial mechanics after completing his Ph.D. in 1948 under the guidance of the well-known Dutch astronomer, J.H. Oort. His extensive monograph, "On the Origin of Comets", remains a seminal reference in the field today. He was then hired by Dirk Brouwer, Director of the Yale University Observatory, as a Research Associate and placed in charge of the computing laboratory which the Observatory established at that time.

During his eight years at Yale, van Woerkom applied his creative mind to a large array of problems in celestial mechanics and astrometry, including the secular perturbations of asteroids, numerical integrations of the orbits of Mars, Ceres, Pallas, Vesta, Juno, the motions of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, and a repetition of the well-known numerical integrations of the five outermost planets, originally carried out on the SSEC and now executed on the Naval Weapons Laboratory computer known as NORC, to determine better mass coefficients.

He wrote numerous technical reports and important papers at NUSC and Electric Boat and was the recipient of several awards and citations for his contributions in the development of tactical weapons systems. Celestial mechanicians, who know him, will always remember his helpfulness, kindness and good humor.

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