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Colloquium: Dr. Forman A. Williams

Colloquium
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Bourns Hall A265

Studies of the Conditions for the Occurrence of the Most Severe Types of Fire Whirls

Distinguished Speaker

Dr. Forman A. Williams
Professor of Engineering Physics and Combustion ,
Director, Center for Energy and Combustion Research
University of California, San Diego


Fire whirls, which can be devastating in fires at the urban-wildland interface, arise in different types by mechanisms that are not completely understood. Three types will be defined, and the most severe of the three will be analyzed in an effort to identify optimum conditions for its development. The approach will review full-scale observations, scale-model experiments, computations and balance equations. A scaling law will be suggested that may help in predicting when and where severe fire whirls may occur. Current unknowns and needed future research will be indicated.


Professor Williams is Professor of Engineering Physics and Combustion in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of California, San Diego. Born in 1934 in New Brunswick, New Jersey, he received a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Princeton University in 1955 and a Ph D in Engineering Sciences from California Institute of Technology in 1958. He then taught in the Division of Engineering and Applied Physics at Harvard University until 1964, at which time he joined the faculty of the University of California, San Diego. In January of 1981 Professor Williams accepted the Robert H. Goddard Chair in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University, where he remained until 1988, when he returned to the University of California, San Diego to assume his present position. Beginning in 1997 he accepted an Adjunct Professorship in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Yale University for one month each year for a period of ten years. He served as the Director of the Center for Energy Research at UCSD from 1991 to 2006 and holds the Presidential Chair in Energy and Combustion Research from the University of California. His field of specialization is combustion, and his book, Combustion Theory, first published in1965, with a greatly expanded second edition in 1985, is a respected treatise on the subject.

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