UC Berkeley News


Joseph Frisch

17 July 2008

Joseph Frisch, a professor emeritus of mechanical engineering who was known as a pioneer in computer-aided design, died June 15 at his home in Berkeley after a prolonged illness. He was 87.


Frisch specialized in computer-aided engineering design and manufacturing systems, serving as chair of the division of mechanical design within the Department of Mechanical Engineering from 1966 to 1970. A first-rate manufacturing researcher, he developed the early use of computer-aided design (CAD). His laboratory became one of the first in the country to investigate direct numerical control (DNC) in design and manufacturing, a method of networking multiple computer-controlled machine tools that is standard practice in today’s machine shops.

While at Berkeley, Frisch also worked as an adviser to the Atomic Energy Commission, NASA, and the aerospace industry, applying his knowledge of design and materials to nuclear-energy issues, modern aircraft design, and space missions, including America’s lunar landings.

From 1972 to 1975, Frisch assumed a leadership role in the College of Engineering as associate dean, committing his tenure to recruiting more women to the college and to the engineering field. In 1973 he was elected a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Frisch was born in April 1921 in Vienna. In 1938 he fled the Nazi regime with the help of the Dutch underground, emigrating to the United States in 1940. He graduated from Duke University in 1946 with a B.S. in mechanical engineering, and that same year became a U.S. citizen. In 1947 he joined the Berkeley faculty as a lecturer in engineering design, earning his M.S. in mechanical engineering in 1950. A year later he became an assistant professor in the department, and earned a full professorship in 1963. He retired from Berkeley in 1985.

Frisch is survived by his wife, Joan Frisch, of Berkeley; daughter Teri Sallette-Frisch, of New York and Long Beach, Calif.; son Erich Frisch, of Berkeley; and son Jonathan Frisch, of Albany, Calif.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Frisch’s memory to Yad Vashem, P.O.B. 3477, Jerusalem 91034, Israel; the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, 333 Seventh Avenue, 16th Floor, New York, NY 10001-5004; or the Mechanical Engineering Scholarship Fund No. 55119, College of Engineering, UC Berkeley, 201 McLaughlin Hall #1722, Berkeley, CA 94720-1722.

A campus memorial is planned for the fall.

— Rachel Shafer, College of Engineering

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