Encyclopedia Brunoniana

Hersey, Mayo D.

Mayo Dyer Hersey (1886-1978), professor of engineering, was born in Pawtuxet Neck, Rhode Island, on August 30, 1886. He graduated from Colorado College with a bachelor of arts degree in 1907, and earned a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from M.I.T. and a master of arts degree in physics and mathematics from Olivet College, both in 1910. From 1910 to 1920 he was a physicist at the National Bureau of Standards, and from 1922 to 1926 chief of the physical laboratory of the U.S. Bureau of Mines in Pittsburgh. He also taught at M.I.T. from 1910 to 1922. During World War I he worked on aeronautical instruments. He was a lecturer and research associate at Brown from 1934 to 1936, the first year by invitation and the second under a subsidy from the Standard Oil Development Company. For fifteen years he was employed by the National Bureau of Standards, and he also served as a consultant to the Manhattan Project at Columbia during World War II and worked for the Naval Engineering Experiment Station at Annapolis from 1947 to 1957. After retirement from government service in 1957 he returned to Brown as visiting professor in engineering.

In 1965 he was the first recipient of the Mayo D. Hersey award, which continued to be given annually by the American Society of Engineers for “outstanding and continued contributions to the field of lubrication science and engineering.” He was awarded the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Medal for 1967. In 1974, in recognition of his life’s work in tribology and its significance in alleviating the energy shortage, he was awarded a gold medal by a group of British engineering societies. Hersey, age 88, accepted the honor only on the condition that no travel would be involved. He was informed that he need not come to England and was offered instead a presentation ceremony in Washington. When he declined, the British Embassy sent its scientific attaché to Providence to present the medal in the President’s Dining Room in the Sharpe Refectory.

When requested by “Time Capsule Expo ’70 Questionnaire,” to “Write your brief message to mankind 5,000 years hence,” Hersey wrote, “Take what comes and make the best of it. If the wife throws a saucepan at you, return it with a bow, asking her to make one of her delicious omelettes in it.” He died on September 5, 1978 in Providence.