Department alumnus, Frank D. Werner passes away
Frank David Werner Sr., a distinguished inventor and engineer, passed away on Saturday, May 7, at the age of 94. Frank was born on a farm in Kansas in 1922. He hated the farm—except for welding and machinery repair, and made plans to escape by age 13. Frank would eventually succeed in getting away, to pursue a B.S. in General Sciences at Kansas State College, followed by an M.S. and a Ph.D. in Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Minnesota. Frank married Alice Martel in Washington DC while he was working at John Hopkins University and she worked at the Belgian embassy. They had three children.
Frank was involved in temperature and pressure sensor research at the Rosemount Research Center at the U of M when the U.S. Air Force asked him to manufacture the total temperature sensors he had developed for their high-performance aircraft. Following this request, he founded Rosemount Engineering in 1956 along with Robert Keppel and Vernon Heath, in the small farming community of Rosemount, Minnesota. The company produced aircraft and aerospace instruments to measure pressure and temperature. High performance aircraft and the space program continued to be the forces propelling the company forward in the 1960s. Applications for temperature and pressure sensors were being expanded and associated equipment, such as airplane stall warning and ice detection systems, were added to the product line. Rosemount celebrated the end of its first decade with sales of $8.5 million and a 19 percent increase in profits. The company’s many instruments developed under Werner’s direction have been used on virtually every jet in the free world and are now on the moon and Mars. In fact, the Apollo 11 mission carried almost 100 Rosemount devices, including ventilation flow sensors that monitored oxygen flow through the spacesuits of moon-walking astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Although Rosemount was immensely successful, Frank loved engineering more than being president of a company, so he moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming in 1970 and did research and development work.
Frank constantly thought about ways to improve everyday objects. For example, he loved skiing and developed ski boots that helped change the industry standard from hand-crafted leather to plastic boots. This led him to become a long-time board member of the JH Ski Corporation. He was also a founder of Teton Village public utilities and served many years as Fire Chief. He liked golf and developed several patents for golf putter and golf driver head design. He even co-authored two books on optimizing club head designs. Frank held 86 patents that span an amazing range of things: solar energy heating, fastener systems, windshield repair, and many more. Whether we knew it or not, Frank’s ingenuity has influenced us all.