Awardee Interviews | Biography: Harold R. Kaufman

Harold R. Kaufman

Harold R. KaufmanDr. Harold R. Kaufman was born in Audubon, Iowa, USA, in 1926. He grew up in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. His technical education began in the US Navy during World War II as an electronic technician, learning then-new technologies such as radar and sonar. Thanks to the GI Bill of Rights, he received a BS in ME from Northwestern University in 1951. He received a PhD in ME from Colorado State University in 1971.

Dr. Kaufman worked at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in Cleveland Ohio and its successor, NASA, from 1951-1974. The work for NASA was in airbreathing propulsion: turbojets, afterburners, and turbofans. After NACA became NASA, his work shifted to electric space propulsion, where he invented the electron-bombardment ion rocket (US Patent 3,156,090, 1964). He was responsible for the development of two ion thrusters that were tested in space (SERT-I and SERT-II). The ion rocket invention is also the basis of most gridded ion sources used in industry today.

From 1974-1984, Dr. Kaufman was a faculty member of the Physics and Mechanical Engineering Departments of Colorado State University. He was also Chairman of the Physics Department from 1978-1984. In 1984 he left academia to work at Kaufman & Robinson, Inc., in Fort Collins, Colorado. He invented the end-Hall ion source in 1989 (US Patent 4,862,032), which is the basis of most gridless ion sources used in industry today.

Dr. Kaufman has over 150 scientific publications and 40 patents. Most of the publications are in the field of electric space propulsion and the technically related field of industrial ion sources. He has received the James H. Wyld Award of AIAA (1969), the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement (1971), the Albert Nerken Award of the American Vacuum Society (1991), and the Medal for Outstanding Achievment in Electric Propulsion of the Electric Rocket Propulsion Society (2005), and is a Fellow of the American Vacuum Society.

Dr. Kaufman married Elinor Mae Wheat in 1948 and they recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. They have three children, two of whom live near them in Colorado.