Professor Henry Martyn Paynter

Professor Emeritus Henry Martyn (“Hank”) Paynter, a member of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) faculty from 1946–85, died suddenly on June 14, 2002 while working on a project in his study at home in Pittsford, Vermont, surrounded by his papers and books.

Professor Paynter was born August 11, 1923 in Evanston, Illinois. Professor Paynter received the S.B. in Civil Engineering in 1944, the S.M. in Mathematics and Science in 1949, and the Sc.D. in Hydroelectric Engineering in 1951, all from MIT. From 1944–46 he worked for Puget Power in Seattle returning to MIT for graduate study and teaching. He joined the Department of Civil Engineering in 1946 and became an Assistant Professor in 1951.

His research addressed fluid dynamics, control, and power systems, and led to the formation with George A. Philbrick of the Pi Square Engineering Company. This company applied fast electronic analog computing to industrial process control. His research also led to many consulting engagements. He joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT in 1954 on a half-time basis to initiate a systems engineering curriculum. He became full time in Mechanical Engineering in 1959 and was promoted to Associate Professor the following year. He became a Full Professor in 1964. Regarded as a creative, charismatic, and passionate teacher, who deeply influenced the careers of his students, he urged them to think “big” and “deep” about engineering and science. After he retired, Professor Paynter was a senior lecturer in Mechanical Engineering, and he became active in the Pittsford Historical Society and enthusiastically pursued local causes including environmental, forestry and land preservation. During his MIT career, the family lived in Reading, Massachusetts.

Besides pioneering work in analog and digital computing, Dr. Paynter is known worldwide as the inventor of Bond Graphs, which is a modeling language that is an integrated notational and computational framework for energetic systems. He held eight patents on tension-actuator based robotics technology and was known internationally for his contributions to the analysis of design and control of complex multimedia systems. He collaborated extensively with colleagues and published on a wide variety of subjects in more than 100 papers, articles, and book chapters. He is the author of Analysis and Design of Engineering Systems (MIT Press, 1961) and of A Palimpsest on the Electronic Analog Art (G. A. Philbrick Researches, Boston, 1955).

Professor Paynter’s professional accomplishments were recognized through numerous awards, including the Alfred Noble Prize of the Joint Engineering Societies in 1953, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Oldenburger Medal in 1979, the American Control Conference (ACC) Education Award in 1984, and election to the National Academy of Engineering in 1997. He was also a Sigma Xi National Lecturer, ASME Distinguished Lecturer and Thurston Lecturer. He was a life fellow of ASME, a life member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and a life senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and a member of Tau Beta Pi.

Throughout his career, Prof. Paynter had a close professional relationship with his colleagues and former students in the Dynamic Systems and Control Division of ASME, and will be missed very much by all that knew him and loved him. He leaves his wife of 57 years, Gayllis A. (Beasley); a sister, Jane Solit of Deposit, NY; two daughters, Emily of Durham, NC, and Martha of Natick, MA; three sons, Bruce of Newark, NJ, Kenneth of Herzliya, Israel, and Neil of Hancock, MI; 13 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.