Warren Harding Giedt
Professor of Mechanical & Aeronautical Engineering, Emeritus
1920 – 2007
Warren H. Giedt, professor emeritus and founding chair of the Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering at the University of California, Davis, died March 23 at his home in San Jose. He was 86.
On March 12, Warren had been present with family, friends, and colleagues past and present to dedicate UC Davis’s newest teaching building, Warren and Leta Giedt Hall. The 15,000 square-foot building, which contains three lecture halls and two classrooms, was made possible by a gift of $2.5 million from Warren and his late wife, Leta.
Speaking at that event, Warren said that seeing so many smiling faces reminded him of the morning in July 1965 when he arrived on the Davis campus. In June of this year, he noted, he would have completed sixty years of service to the University of California.
"We were fortunate to have shared that special day with him. We will miss him," said Enrique Lavernia, dean of the College of Engineering. "However, it is important to recognize that Warren Giedt’s influence will be felt for generations to come -- in the work of his many students, from the benefits of his research and through his and Leta’s generous gifts to the students at UC Davis."
Born in Leola, South Dakota, Warren began his career in 1944 at the Air Force equipment laboratory at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio working on aircraft heating and anti-icing. In 1946, he transferred to the Air Force Institute of Technology, where he was named assistant professor of thermodynamics.
After spending his freshman and sophomore years at the University of Chicago, where he received a scholarship, Warren transferred to UC Berkeley, receiving a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1944, a master’s degree in 1946, and a Ph.D. in 1950, the same year he married Leta McCarty. The couple met while Warren was a graduate student at UC Berkeley and Leta was visiting her aunt, who managed the apartment complex where Warren lived.
Warren joined the faculty at UC Berkeley as an instructor in 1947. He became assistant professor in 1950, associate professor in 1956 and full professor in 1961. In 1965, he was invited to move to UC Davis as the first chair of the new Department of Mechanical Engineering. Warren served as department chair until 1969. He served as associate dean of graduate studies for the College of Engineering from 1972 to 1980 and retired from the faculty in 1983.
During their time in Davis, Warren and Leta lived at several locations, including homes on 8th Street and on the golf course at El Macero. Their homes were the sites of numerous social gatherings of both faculty and students; attendees describe students’ bicycles littering the front lawn.
In the early 1990s, Warren and Leta endowed a deferred philanthropic trust to create a professorship to benefit the chair of the Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering. Their gift was the College of Engineering’s first for an endowed professorship.
Internationally known for his teaching and research in heat transfer and thermodynamics, Warren was a Fulbright Professor at the University of Tokyo in 1963 and was awarded a fellowship by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science in 1980. The American Society for Engineering Education honored him as an outstanding teacher in 1968 and 1974. He was a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and in 1985 was awarded the society’s James Harry Potter Medal in recognition of his distinguished achievements in the science of thermodynamics. Warren was the author of two books, “Principles of Engineering Heat Transfer” and “Thermophysics,” as well as, 96 papers and proceedings; he also held three patents and gave numerous presentations in the US and abroad.
Warren had a long association with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory where he started as a consultant in the early 1950s. He continued to maintain an office at the laboratory until his death.
He enjoyed playing golf near his home in El Macero and at The Villages in San Jose, where they moved after his retirement. Warren and Leta also enjoyed frequent trips to their vacation home in Kona, Hawaii; their last trip to Hawaii was in celebration of Warren’s 85th birthday in 2005.
Leta died in December 2006. Although he had no children of his own, Warren is survived by the six children of his identical twin, the late Wallace Reid Giedt. He is also survived by his brother, John Giedt, of Florida.