William Begell

Begell House Publishers, Inc

New York, NY, USA

Member, iNEER Board


Invited Keynote Speech

Delivered at the 4th Baltic Heat Transfer Conference

Kaunas, Lithuania, August, 2003



There is a branch of earth science curriculum at most reputable universities called toponymy. This very specialized and narrow field deals with the study of geographic name places, their origins, derivations and variations from one language to another. This study is, of course, of special significance in places where the geopolitical situations have made the name of the locality change from one historical occupation to another. Today, we are in a country, which has – historically—changed hands through many occupiers until achieving its rightful national independence with the falling apart of the former Soviet Union. Thus, the very name of this country can be used as an example in the study of toponymy, it is Lietuva in Lithuanian, Litauen in German, Litwa in Polish and Литва in Russian. I am sure that there are many more linguistic and national  variants for this country, but my own linguistic knowledge and origin restrict me from knowing any other ones than those cited above.


The reason for my limited and localized knowledge can be traced to the fact that I was born a mere 90 kilometers from here – in the capital city of Lithuania – Vilnius. Vilnius has its own toponymical variations ranging from Wilno, to Wilna to the Tsarist Russian name of  Вильна. These humble local roots of mine have led me to become very tightly connected with the local heat transfer community which, of course, happens to be my own professional background.


When one utters the words “heat transfer”, here in Kaunas or, for that matter, anywhere else in Lithuania, it is automatic that the next phrase contains and leads to the words Algirdas Žukauskas. And the name Algirdas Žukauskas is synonymous to me with the the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, The Lithuanian Energy Institute, and last but not least single-phase convective heat transfer. 


It is, therefore, with the greatest of pleasure, respect, satisfaction and most impressive set of memories and feelings that I have accepted the invitation of Academician Jurgis Vilemas and all my local Lithuanuan friends to be here today and address with a few words the Fourth Baltic Heat Transfer Conference. This is an exceedingly high honor to do so, and I accept it in all humility. It is indeed a humbling experience to be speaking about Algirdas. Before I begin telling the story of how mine and Žukauskas lives became intertwined through a set of coincidences and unbelievable historical events, I want to explain my previous statement about single- phase convective heat transfer.


By no means did I mean to restrict the activity and interests of Algirdas to single phase convective heat transfer, but in a moment of a frank conversation in my hotel room during one of the many heat transfer conferences we had attended together and in answer to my question of “Why does your Institute specialize in single phase research?” he said: “Bill, having been around heat transfer people all my life, I have come to the conclusion that the two-phase specialists, the boiling people, become overly emotional over their work, their correlations, their experiments, and their results. Boiling becomes an integral part of their nature and personality and two-phase problems often turn into schizophrenia. I became paranoid of becoming schizophrenic and have therefore chosen to limit my research to single- phase convective heat transfer”


Now, my Baltic friends, this is a real interdisciplinary approach to research! Combining psychiatry with engineering studies. Hypochondria to the nth degree! Without the slightest intention to insult anybody, I wonder how many heat transfer people here, in this audience, have turned schizoid  as a result of working with multiphase problems, as predicted and defined by Professor Žukauskas.


Unfortunately, Algirdas was lost to his family, friends, coworkers, and admirers throughout the world in an unbelievably freakish accident. He was killed by a drunken truck driver on a seldom-traveled country road. The accident was not only unfortunate, it was totally unexpected and tragic. We have lost a most generous scientist, engineer, administrator and creative individual. The entire heat transfer community, well outside the Baltics has mourned his loss for the last seven years. But, we are here to celebrate Žukauskas’ life and accomplishments rather than to bewail his departure. I am certain that he would have wanted to have it this way.


I happened to get acquainted with Algirdas Žukauskas in San Francisco in 1970 at the American National Heat Transfer Conference. Someone introduced us to each other as individuals who may be interested in each other both professionally and ethnically. That was indeed the case. One may say, love at the first sight. We found common interests not only in the linguistic sense, but in geographic and, yes, convective one, too. Before long, Algirdas and I have developed a publisher-author relationship and a publisher-editor friendship. He would stay, sometimes with his wife, in my house in New York and/or Washington, and I was a frequent guest at his apartment in Vilnius. He was not allowed to have American nationals live in his apartment. However, he made sure that I was comfortably received at the Academy of Science residences. As a member of the local authorities and a former partisan, he had access to everyplace at all times. He was a thoughtful and accommodating man. When I arrived in Vilnius for the first time from Minsk in 1979, he made sure that our first lunch took place in my grandfather’s hotel’s dining room to make me feel at home.


Academician Žukauskas was the editor of a series of books on heat transfer, published in Russian, by a local Lithuanian publisher in Vilnius. I found these books to be of great industrial interest in the West, because they contained data that would normally be considered proprietary. We published about 10 of the volumes in the series and I wanted to please Algirdas and made the dust jackets with a three-color design. Red – white – and green. In 1990, when the freedom movement for a free Lithuania started in Vilnius, I tried to show my subliminal support for the cause by making the hard cover of the book yellow, thus having the effect of the flag of independent Lithuania of green- red- and yellow. I understand from my friends at the Institute here that my subtle hint of the counter-revolutionary subversion had not been detected. But you never knew where you stood with Žukauskas. He may have noticed this bit of nationalistic hint but never told anyone about it. A little vignette from my own life will illustrate it rather clearly.


I had escaped from a German concentration camp and liberated, two weeks later, by the Soviet Army in Vilnius in July 1944 – just weeks over 60 years ago. I was 17 years old and I knew that the Soviets would recruit me into the Red Army without any possibility of deferment or excuse. I certainly did not have any desire to go to the frontline after having spent almost 4 years in German confinement. The only way of saving my skin was to make myself younger. However, all the archives in Vilnius remained intact, Therefore I had to invent another place of birth for myself. I decided to choose a town in Poland that had not yet been taken by the Soviets and enrolled in the Young Communist League, the so-called Komsomol. This was an easy procedure and I received immediately a Party Card stating my new year and place of birth. Having this card, it was a matter of simple procedure to get a Soviet passport with my new birth coordinates. I was thus saved from serving in the Red Army and from being sent immediately to the frontline.


At that time Algirdas Žukauskas , after spending the war years with the local  partisans, became the head of the Vilnius Komsomol organization, He always bragged to me that he had a photographic memory and remembered everybody and everything that he ever saw. During the Soviet times I was reluctant to tell him about my own involvement with the Komnsomol in Vilnius because I felt that it would bring into our scholarly relationship and friendly contact an unnecessary political slant. In 1994, at the International Heat Transfer Conference in Brighton, England, I changed my mind and over a meal of tea and crumpets told Algirdas about my devious doings in 1944. I asked him whether he remembered me and the fact that I had returned my Party Card before leaving Vilnius for Poland. He got up and walked over to my side of the table, I also got up and he gave me a warm kiss and embraced me like never before. Yet, he did not utter a single word and I still do not know whether he did or did not remember me from the difficult days at the end of World War 2. I was able to relate this story to Mrs. Žukauskas before her death during my visit to Vilnius three years ago and she had no comment on her husband’s behavior. Therefore, we shall never know what Algirdas knew or felt.


As a result of his engineering activities and research he became quite well known to the Western engineers and professors who were collaborating with my publishing house. Algirdas was invited to serve on one of the most prestigious Editorial Boards in the area of heat transfer, The Heat Exchanger Design Handbook. He was, of course, given the responsibility for the sections dealing with – you guessed it – single-phase convective heat transfer. He performed admirably, edited a lot of material and his contributions will forever be remembered on the pages of this enormous set of volumes. I remember it well how proudly the staff of this Institute and the librarians displayed the first edition of the Handbook after its publication in 1982. The tradition of Algirdas Žukauskas is being carried on by the present Director of the Institute, Academician Jurgis Volemas  who is our host here today.


In closing, I would like to say of few words about Algirdas as a friend, husband, and father. He was always concerned about the well being of his family and was delighted to have become a grandfather. He was also, even first and foremost, a devoted Lithuanian. I remember that when he used to stay in our apartment in New York, he would show me the dozens and dozens of children’s books in Lithuanian that he would bring to distribute among his Lithuanian friends who lived in the United States, so that their children would grow up speaking this unique and beloved tongue.


I miss him, the entire world heat transfer community misses him, as do his friends, associates and family. I am, however, very proud of the fact that I have contributed over the many years of our personal and professional friendship to Algirdas Žukauskas’ memory by enabling to have his name in print in some of the most important and archival pieces of engineering literature in existence,