An Improbable Life by D.C. Wilcox, and the $k-\omega$ Model

I just finished reading the autobiography of D. C. Wilcox. He wrote a number of books that were published through his own company. One of the most popular is on fluid dynamics. A less known book is on turbulence modeling. He was famous for a particular two-equation turbulence model in the form of $k-\omega$. It is mostly known as the Wilcox $k-\omega$ model today. Dr. Wilcox had an interesting life, and one publication is called “An Improbable Life,” which is an autobiography. In the autobiography, he discusses his childhood, father, mother, growth as a child through an arrest. While incarcerated he studied and was helped by volunteers. He was admitted to MIT through American standardized testing. He then went on to obtain a Ph.D. at Caltech. He was very focused later in life, and tried to give back to the community that helped him. He was an outspoken conservative and a huge fan of Ayn Rand, and in particular Atlas Shrugged. So many people in his generation were influenced by the book. My only dissapointment with the autobiography was that he did not talk at all about his interest and development / motivation for his famous turbulence model. Otherwise, the little hard to find book is a short read, which was motivated to help other young men such as himself. Here are some favorite quotes:

Just over nine years passed from the day I woke up in a six foot by nine foot prison cell determined to reclaim my life to the day Caltech President Harold Brown handed me my Doctorate. I had taken a journey that required a great deal of hard work, some good fortune and the assistance of some wonderful people. Among those wonderful people, the gracious and generous Jean Kane Foulke du Pont stood out not only as a benefactor but, eventually, as a dear friend.

I visited with Mrs. du Pont just after I graduated from MIT in 1966 to thank her for all she had done for me. I offered to pay her back with installments over time so other scholars could get the kind of education she had made possible for me. “Oh, heavens no,” she said, “we wouldn’t know how to handle it with the IRS.”

She went on to tell me that I could repay her by making sure my children went to their college of choice. It wasn’t much of a repayment I thought, because Barbara and I couldn’t imagine doing otherwise.

I sent her a letter in 1986 to tell her that I had just fulfilled part of my promise to make sure my children received the college education they wanted. My daughter Kinley would be graduating from college almost twenty years to the day from when I had graduated from MIT. Sadly, a reply came back telling me that Mrs. du Pont had passed away.

D. C. Wilcox, “An Improbable Life,” Published by DCW Industries, Inc., 2007, ISBN 10: 1928729509

In late June of 1966, Barbara and I moved to California where a job awaited me with Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach. This was yet another one of my childhood dreams come true. I had never forgotten my wonderful days in California with Aunt Isabel and her son Warren. This time I was coming to California to stay.

After working for a year at Douglas Aircraft, I was accepted for graduate study at the California Institute of Technology where I met my third great teacher, Dr. Philip Saffman. In addition to being a wonderful teacher and $\mathrm{PhD}$ thesis adviser, he told me that he felt a truly dedicated student should pursue his studies like a monk in a monastery. For students who did that, he added, six years from high school to $\mathrm{PhD}$ should be the norm.

In June of 1970, after just three years of study under the guidance of this brilliant mathematician/scientist, I graduated with a PhD in Aeronautics. I had accomplished the second of my highschool goals by earning a PhD with just six years of college.

While I was at Caltech, my son Robert Sabatino Wilcox named after his two grandfathers – was born. The year was 1969. Dad would have been tickled to know that his grandson was born in the year that Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon.

After a brief time working for various Southern California aerospace companies, I founded my own company, which I named DCW Industries. The company came into existence on July 19 , 1973. Since I was twenty-nine years old, I had accomplished my third goal. Initially focused on aerospace research, the company prospered and I have published more than seventy scientific reports and journal articles in some of the aerospace industry’s most prestigious journals. The company now specializes in book publishing, and I have written several college-level textbooks that are used in universities all over the world.

Mom and I wrote each other from time to time until she passed away in 1977. In one letter she told me something that proved to be one of the nicest things she ever did for me. She told me that I had a relative who was a professor at UCLA. His name was Bill Meecham and he was my Aunt Mabel’s son. Since Mabel was Dad’s sister, we were first cousins.

I contacted Bill and discovered that we had more than our bloodline in common – we were both working in the same field! We became friends and he helped me obtain a part-time teaching job at UCLA in 1981. I have been a fixture in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department ever since.

When Aunt Mabel died in 1987, Bill showed me some genealogical information that was among her belongings. I noticed that Dad had a brother named Arthur who had died in 1947 when I was three years old. At the age of 43 , I had just discovered that I had an uncle I was completely unaware of. Of even greater significance, this information revealed a great deal about my family roots dating back through ten generations in America.

D. C. Wilcox, “An Improbable Life,” Published by DCW Industries, Inc., 2007, ISBN 10: 1928729509