Professor Adamson was engaged in teaching and research work at The University of Michigan for 37 years. Previous to that he spent two years in research work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratories of the California Institute of Technology; he had a Guggenhiem Fellowship at Caltech. He has been a full professor of aerospace engineering since 1961. From 1979 to 1986, he was the President and Treasurer of his research company, Applied Analysis Incorporated. From 1983 until January 1992, he served as the Chairman of the Department of Aerospace Engineering at The University of Michigan.
Dr. Adamson's early work was in combustion, high speed reacting flows, and rocket exhaust plumes. His thesis work, done with Dr. Frank Marble of Caltech, has been referred to in the literature as the "Marble Adamson Problem." He served on the NRC-NAS Committee on Fire Safety and on the AIAA Technical Committee on Propellants and Combustion. His fundamental work on the structure of underexpanded rocket exhaust plumes was recognized by his being invited to write and present a paper on this subject at the 21st Meeting of the AGARD Combustion and Propulsion Panel, NATO, in London England, in 1963. This and later work led to his being appointed to the JANNAF-ICRPG Flow Mechanics Committee, PlumeTechnology Group, in 1970. In addition, he served on the NAS-NRC Committee on Basic Research Advisory to the U. S. Army Research Office, Durham. He also worked on detonation wave structure and directed graduate student work which, in 1972, culminated in the analytical description of an important liquid rocket motor instability caused by rotating two-phase detonation waves. In addition, he directed graduate work on the analysis of hydrocarbon emissions from conventional spark ignition engines which had as its end product a computer code which was used by the Ford Scientific Laboratories in studies of automobile emissions.
During the latter part of his career, Dr. Adamson's research was primarily in internal transonic flow fields. For over a dozen years he was supported by the Office of Naval Research (Project Squid) for work on unsteady transonic channel flows and for over five years NASA Langley Research Center supported his work on shock wave boundary layer interactions. In 1975, he was the author of one invited paper and co-author of another at Symposium Transonicum II, in Gottingen, Germany. In addition, he co-chaired an ONR Workshop on Transonic Flow Problems in Turbomachineryin 1976 and co-edited the volume of the proceedings. He also was invited to an AGARD-NATO Lecture Tour and gave talks on transonic channel flow and shock wave-boundary layer interactions in France at Toulouse and Paris, in Holland at Delft and Amsterdam, in Belgium at Brussels, and in England at London, in 1978. Invited papers on the work on transonic flows were given at several other workshops and meetings. In 1980, important recognition of this work was given by the invitation to Dr. Adamson and his colleague, Dr. A. F. Messiter, to write a review article on the interactions between shock waves and boundary layers, in the Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics. In 1992, Dr. Adamson was invited to give a paper at an NSF meeting on fluid mechanics held in Poland.
Professor Adamson has enjoyed a distinguished teaching career during his tenure at The University of Michigan. He has taught courses in propulsion, aerodynamics, combustion, rarified gas dynamics, gas dynamics, and hypersonic, and transonic flow; he has introduced several courses. His student ratings have been uniformly high. He has served as the graduate student advisor, and on 74 PhD committees, chairing or co-chairing 17. In the College of Engineering, he has served on the College Executive Committee, the governing committee of the College, and on several review and chairman search committees for other departments. At the University level, he has served on the Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs Search Committee, in 1985, and on several University wide award committees. In 1986, he was invited to serve on the Texas State Higher Education Coordinating Board as a peer reviewer for Advanced Technology and Advanced Research. He served on review committees for the Aero programs at Caltech in 1987 and at the University of Washington, Seatttle, and Stanford University, both in 1991. He was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame (1987-2010). He was a member of the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Foundation (1994-2004), which dealt with support for various philanthropic organizations throughout the world. He also chaired the Prize Board for the FXB Aerospace prize (1992-1999), an international award given biennially, which included a large monetary award.
In 1980, Professor Adamson was given the Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award, one of the highest awards presented by the University of Michigan. In 2000, he was elected to the Lyons Township High School’s Hall of Fame. In 2006 Purdue University presented him with The Outstanding Aerospace Engineer Award. He is a Fellow of the AIAA and has served on several peer review panels and final selection boards for this award.
During his stint as chair of the Aerospace Engineering Department, Professor Adamson hired replacements for over half the Department. In addition, he hired three new faculty in the field of computational fluid dynamics (CFD), two of them senior people. They gave the department immediate national and international presence in CFD. In addition, Dr. Adamsonwas very actively involved in raising money for the new FXB Aerospace Engineering Building, as well as in its design and construction. Finally, he convinced the College of Engineering to support refurbishing the vacuum chamber and building, obtained from the Bendix Corporation, and to fund the new Aero Laboratory in this facility. It has since become on of the best known academic laboratories for electric space propulsion, with support from many government agencies.
Professor Adamson retired in 1992 and became Professor Emeritus of Aerospace Engineering.