Born in Bulgaria and educated in Germany, Widen Tabakoff first visited Cincinnati in 1957 after being invited by the U.S. army to join Werner von Braun’s world-renowned team of rocket scientists. This team would develop Saturn 5 complex that would send Apollo 11 to the moon.
In 1958, while on duty with the U.S. army, Tabakoff worked alongside the U.S. Army Engineering Division Laboratory testing materials for use in the nozzle of the Saturn V complex, when he first became acquainted with UC faculty. Professor Ray Murray, the acting department head, jumped at the opportunity to incorporate Tabakoff’s wealth of knowledge into the university by offering him a position. He full-heartedly accepted and began to lay the groundwork for why the aerospace department is what it is today.
In the midst of supporting a great number of graduate students’ research, Tabakoff created the CEAS Engineering Research Center’s (ERC) first gas dynamic & propulsion laboratories’ infrastructure that is still in use today.
Professor Awatef Hamed, PhD, speaks about her mentor then colleague and dear friend Widen Tabakoff, and of his momentous contributions to CEAS, “He was an incredibly talented engineer and innovative scientist. Even though internationally recognized for his propulsion and space research, he was modest and very generous to all, from students to colleagues and collaborators. He established the gas and propulsions laboratory and encouraged everybody, students, faculty, and partners from industry and government to utilize it.”
Upon his arrival at UC, Tabakoff was the only aerospace faculty member to have earned a PhD degree. Tabakoff obtained his Doktor-Ingenieur, in aerospace engineering from the University of Berlin in 1945.
Shortly after arriving at UC, his advanced knowledge and generous nature led him to collaborate with mathematics, physics and astronomy faculty members in order to form the Institute of Space Sciences in 1959. In the meantime he single handedly taught numerous new graduate and undergraduate courses to allow the rest of the aerospace faculty to receive their doctoral degrees.