Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Alvin and a Damned Good Engineer

Today, I attended the funeral of an old colleague of mine, Harold (Bud) Froehlich who passed away earlier this week. I used to work with Bud on medical products, more specifically we were designing staplers to replace sutures in surgery. Bud was a really good mechanical engineer, the kind you don't see much any more. After working with Bud for awhile, I learned that he had had quite an illustrious past. Bud was the principal engineer on the team that built the Alvin Deep Submersible Vehicle.

The Alvin was designed in the early 1960's at General Mills (of all places) in Minneapolis. Yes, the cereal company. Turns out General Mills had a division during World War II that built equipment for the military and they continued to do so in the early post-war years. Anyway, Alvin was designed for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. It was named after one of the founding oceanographers, Allyn Vine.

Bud did all of the lead design on the craft. He gave it a streamlined shape to reduce drag. He enclosed the propeller in a housing to protect it and increase thrust. He housed the batteries in oil so that any sea water leak would not short the batteries out.

For over 40 years, Alvin has had a distinguished career . It has recovered an H-bomb from the bottom of the Atlantic. It was used by Dr. Robert Ballard in the discovery of the Titanic. It has been to places no one ever dreamed of going. And in many ways, the honor belongs to a humble man named Bud Froehlich who brought this unique device into being.

Bud, I will always remember your sharp mind, your gentle humor and your genuine passion for engineering. Rest in peace, my friend.

Picture from Wikipedia