George Michael Low was born
George Wilhelm Low on June 10, 1926, near Vienna, Austria. His parents
were Artur and Gertrude Burger Low, small business people in Austria.
With the German occupation of Austria in 1938, four years after Artur
Low's death, his family emigrated to the United States. In 1943, Low graduated
from Forest Hills High School, Forest Hills, New York, and entered Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute (RPI). His education was interrupted by the war
and from 1944 to 1946, in which he served in the U.S. Army. While doing
so, he became a naturalized American citizen, and legally changed his
name to George Michael Low.
After military service Low
returned to RPI and received his Bachelor of Aeronautical Engineering
degree in 1948. He then worked at General Dynamics (Convair) in Fort Worth,
Texas, as a mathematician in an aerodynamics group. Low returned to RPI
late in 1948, however, and received his Master of Science degree in aeronautical
engineering in 1950. In 1949, he married Mary Ruth McNamara of Troy, New
York. Between 1952 and 1963, they had five children: Mark S., Diane E.,
George David, John M., and Nancy A.
After completing his M.S.
degree, Low joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA)
as an engineer at the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory in Cleveland,
Ohio (later the Lewis Research Center). He became head of the Fluid Mechanics
Section (1954-1956) and Chief of the Special Projects Branch (1956-1958).
Low specialized in experimental and theoretical research in the fields
of heat transfer, boundary layer flows, and internal aerodynamics. In
addition, he worked on such space technology problems as orbit calculations,
reentry paths, and space rendezvous techniques.
During the summer and autumn
of 1958, preceding the formation of the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA), Low worked on a planning team to organize the new
aerospace agency. Soon after NASA's formal organization in October 1958,
Low transferred to the agency's headquarters in Washington, D.C., where
he served as Chief of Manned Space Flight. In this capacity, he was closely
involved in the planning of Projects Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo.
In February 1964, Low transferred
to NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas (now the Johnson
Space Center), and served as Deputy Center Director. In April 1967, following
the Apollo 204 fire, he was named Manager of the Apollo Spacecraft Program
Office (ASPO) where he was responsible for directing the changes to the
Apollo spacecraft necessary to make it flight worthy.
George Low became NASA Deputy
Administrator in December 1969, serving with Administrators Thomas O.
Paine and James C. Fletcher. As such, he became one of the leading figures
in the early development of the Space Shuttle, the Skylab program, and
the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.
He retired from NASA in 1976
to become president of RPI, a position he still held at his death. He
died of cancer on July 17, 1984.
For further information on
George Low, see Sylvia B. Kennick, The George M. Low Papers (Troy, NY:
Institute Archives and Special Collections, 1988).
For additional information
The NASA History Office , firstname.lastname@example.org