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A Lifetime Of Achievements: Happy 104th Birthday Dr. Abolghassem Ghaffari!


Dr. Abolghassem Ghaffari helped NASA to put a man on the moon for the Apollo 11 mission. That was a celebrated day in his life and recently, an equally important one arrived this past June 15; he turned 104 years old!

Dr. Abolghassem Ghaffari
Dr. Abolghassem Ghaffari

Born in Teheran, he was educated at Darolfonoun School (Teheran). In 1929, he went to France and studied Mathematics and Physics at Nancy University, where he took his L-es-Sc. in Mathematics in 1932. After obtaining post-graduate diplomas in Physics, Astronomy, and Higher Analysis, he obtained in 1936 his doctorate from the Sorbonne (Doctor of Sciences with “Mention tres honorable”) for basic research on Mathematical Study of Brownian Motion.

Dr. Ghaffari lectured as a Research Associate at King’s College (London University), where he received his Ph.D. from the Mathematics Department on the “Velocity-Correction Factors and the Hodograph Method in Gas Dynamics.” As a Fulbright Scholar, he worked at Harvard University as a Research Associate to lecture on Differential Equations and to continue his research on Gas Dynamics. He was a Research Associate in Mathematics at Princeton University, and at the Institute for Advanced Study, he worked in the early 1950s with Albert Einstein on the Unified Field Theory of Gravitation and Electromagnetism. J. Robert Oppenheimer, who headed the U.S. atom bomb program during World War II, was director of the Institute at the time and interviewed Ghaffari before the latter became a member of the Institute (Oppenheimer later befriended Ghaffari). He has lectured as a Professor of Mathematics at American University in Washington, DC and at Teheran University, where he joined the Faculty of Sciences and was appointed full Professor of Higher Analysis from 1941 to 1956.

In 1956, Ghaffari moved permanently to the U.S. to take up a position as a senior mathematician at the U.S. National Bureau of Standards. Part of his work there involved calculations of the motion of artificial satellites. In 1964, three years into the manned space program, he joined, as aerospace scientist, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Goddard Space Flight Center, where he studied the mathematical aspects of different optimization techniques involved in the Earth-Moon trajectory problems, and different analytical methods for multiple midcourse maneuvers in interplanetary guidance. He later investigated the effects of solar radiation pressure on the Radio Astronomy Explorer Satellite Booms as well as the effects of General Relativity on the orbits of Artificial Earth Satellites.

He was awarded in Iran the Imperial Orders of the late Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, and the U.S. Special Apollo Achievement award (1969) at a White House ceremony with President Nixon. He has published more than 50 papers on Pure and Applied Mathematics in American, British, and French, and Persian periodicals. In addition to two textbooks, he is author of the mathematical book “The Hodograph Method in Gas Dynamics” (1950).

In 2005, Ghaffari received an award from the Association of Professors and Scholars of Iranian Heritage at UCLA. He is also a past member of the Iranian National Commission of UNESCO. Ghaffari is a Fellow of the New York Academy of Sciences, the Washington Academy of Sciences, and the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences and a member of the London Mathematical Society, the American Mathematical Society, The Mathematical Association of America, and the American Astronomical Society.

Related Website:

Iranian Actress & Journalist Vida GhaffariIranian Actress & Journalist Vida Ghaffari:
Vida is the daughter of Dr. Abolghassem Ghaffari

Vida Ghaffari has been active on the Tinsel town scene as an actress and a reporter. She just shot her third starring role in cult filmmaker Joe Castro’s well regarded horror films as well as starring in many other indie films. Vida has worked alongside a couple of well known child stars. She shot a supporting role in an indie film called “The Bilderberg Club” with Allison Arngrim (Nellie Oleson) of “Little House on the Prairie” as well as acting with Jeremy Miller (Ben Seaver) of “Growing Pains” in a TV pilot. She has also played an Iraqi wife in an episode of Comedy Central’s “Mind of Mencia.” (read more)


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