John Akerman

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Džons Akermans, Jānis Dāvja (Dāvida d.) Akermans, Akerman, Akermanis, Джон Акерман
Born in Latvia, Engineer, Member of student's corporation, Pedagogue, teacher, Pilot, Public figure, Related to Latvia, Scientist, WWI participant
Minneapolis, Crystal Lake Cemetery

Professor John D. Akerman (Jānis Akermanis) born in Latvia, that time part of Russian Empire.

In the beginning of WWI Akerman was deported to Russia when the Germans took over Latvia, and learned to fly there in 1916.

Later he moved to France, where he flew for the French Air Force, before coming to the U.S. in 1918.

He received an Engineering degree from the University of Michigan and worked for Stout-Ford until 1927 and for the Hamilton Metalplane Company for a while after that. He began work for the Mohawk Aircraft Company in 1928, where he did engineering redesign of the Mohawk airplane and joined the University of Minnesota in 1929, becoming head of the Aeronautical Engineering Department in 1930, when the Department was separated from the rest of the Engineering School.

He stayed until 1958, and during that time, authored many books and articles on structures and meteorology. He was a consultant to the Boeing Company and a major part of the team that designed the B-29 wing.

Professor Akerman was instrumental in starting the University's Rosemount Aeronautical Research Center, and headed that until 1962. He served as one of five Commissioners of the 1933 Minnesota Aeronautics Commission.


John D. Akerman, Professor Emeritus and initial head of the Department of Aeronautical Engineering. Mr. Akerman was born on April 24, 1897, in Courland, Latvia, which was at that time a Baltic Province of Russia.

He started his career in aeronautics at the Royal Technical Institute in Moscow and as a pilot in the Imperial Russian Air Force.

In 1918 he came to the United States and attended the University of Michigan. He graduated with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering in 1925. As a young engineer, Mr. Akerman worked with Ford Stout Airplane Company and Hamilton Metal Plane Company and advanced to Chief Engineer of the Mohawk Aircraft Corporation. In 1929, Mr. Akerman joined the University of Minnesota and founded the newly organized Department of Aeronautical Engineering.

The department expanded rapidly and its graduates contributed significantly to the development of the American aeronautics and astronautics. During the depression, John D. Akerman received federal grants for designing and building, with the help of University students, a tailless airplane, a so-called Flying Wing, which he flew himself in 1940.

The airplane is now in the Smithsonian Institution. Later he became deeply involved in the development of airplane oxygen systems, and, farsighted as always, he developed and patented a two-gas pressure suit more than 20 years before the first suits were actually used. The design used an inert gas for pressure and oxygen for breathing.

In 1945, Professor Akerman initiated negotiations with the federal government which led to the acquisition of Rosemount's Gopher Ordnance Works for the price of $1.00. With the help of federal grants and using the machinery of the powder factory, he developed the Rosemount Aeronautical Research Laboratories which included wind tunnels from the subsonic to the hypersonic range.

"John D's" accomplishments were recognized by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics as well as by the Royal Aeronautical Society of London. Both societies elected him to fellowships. He was the Commissioner of Aeronautics for the State of Minnesota from 1934 to 1937.

He contributed much to the Latvian Cultural Society, which fosters the continuation of Latvian traditions and culture in the free world. John was given the nickname "father of Latvian immigrant DP's."

In 1962, John D. Akerman retired from the University. However, his energy was not exhausted, and he was always involved in some professional activity. His last project before he was stricken by illness involved archeological research on the island of Tobago in the Lesser Antilles.

John D. Akerman will always be remembered by those who were privileged to be associated with him as a sharp-minded, farsighted scientist-engineer and as a very helpful and resourceful friend.

John Akerman's philosophy of life, as stated in a television interview a few years before his death in 1972, was stated thus: "Life was so crazy, but never dull. Many things started, never were done. I want to live more, I want to learn more. Maybe in our time, I will have fun. But if tomorrow, I have to go, I will depart without a mean thought."



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        Relation nameRelation typeBirth DateDeath dateDescription
        1Mārtiņš AkermanisMārtiņš AkermanisDistant relative00.00.189712.06.1922

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