H. Stuart Starrett
World Class Engineer
Inducted in 2017
Over the course of 50 years, H. Stuart Starrett built internationally-recognized materials research capabilities in Alabama unmatched in the technical community, leaving his mark in the defense, aerospace and energy industries. His legacy is defined by the groundwork he laid for Southern Research Institute – a leader in high temperature materials research for aero-propulsion, reentry systems, heat shields, ground-based turbines, nuclear power and countless other applications.
Starrett retired in 2006 as director of the mechanics research department at Southern Research Institute in Birmingham, and remains an active engineering consultant with SRI. He joined the institute in 1965, after finishing studies in mathematics at the Naval Postgraduate School. Before that, he earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1962 and 1964, respectively.
He began his 50-year career at SRI as an associate engineer, becoming head of the Solid Mechanics Section in 1968, head of the Mechanics Division in 1977 and director of the Mechanics Research Department in 1990. During that time, Starrett gained an international reputation for his technical expertise in reentry systems for SLBMs and ICBMs, solid rocket motors, advanced turbine engines, airframes, and hot gas filtration for the power generation industry.
His knowledge and technical contributions have helped Alabama become a major player in the defense and power generation arenas, brought many high-paying technical jobs to the Birmingham area and generated more than $175 million in research and development revenue to the region. As an example of his technical capabilities, Stuart developed Southern Research’s high temperature materials evaluation laboratories, which have unique capabilities for material characterization.
The development of new missile flight systems would not have been possible without his technical contributions to advanced materials in extreme environments, which provided a fundamental understanding of materials with complex architectures in non-linear operational regimes. These flight systems serve as the backbone of our nation’s defense capabilities and have protected our nation’s warfighters, allies and underrepresented populations across the globe.
The technical contributions by Stuart over the past five decades laid the groundwork for Alabama to become one of the technical leaders in the development of hypersonic weapons systems, the next generation of conventional strike weapons to keep the U.S. in a position of military superiority. Among Starrett’s contributions were appointments to numerous planning activities for future defense programs, and he participated in several failure investigations to help determine the problem in ground and flight tests by using his noted abilities of sound engineering and mathematical principles.
He also applied his skills to our nation’s nuclear fleet, and was integral to the development of fundamental enabling material technologies and characterization methods necessary for the fielding of these complex extreme environment material challenges.
Along with work in defense and aerospace systems, Starrett helped solve challenging materials problems in the energy industry. He developed systems for the filtration of hot gases from boilers for recovery of the energy in a gas turbine, critical work to assure continued success of Southern Company’s and the Department of Energy’s Power Systems Development Facility.
A registered Professional Engineer in Alabama, he is a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, American Mathematical Society and the American Carbon Society.