The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 80.0°F | A Few Clouds

Prescott A. Smith '35 Dies after Stroke at 81

Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering Prescott A. Smith '35 died April 19 at the age of 81. He died of a stroke at Emerson Hospital in Concord, Massachusetts, where he was a resident.

A former Bexley Hall housemaster, Smith lived on campus with his wife, Eloise M. Smith, for seven years starting in 1966.

Smith was born in Somerville, and received a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from MIT in 1935. He spent the next 10 years in the manufacturing industry, and returned to MIT in 1945 as an assistant professor and director of the Machine Tool Laboratory, now the Materials Processing Center. He was promoted to full professor in 1969 and retired in 1975.

Smith followed in the footsteps of his father, the late Professor of Mechanical Engineering Robert H. Smith, who joined the faculty in 1882 and retired in 1932. All told, father and son served at MIT for a total 80 years.

While Smith's father founded and directed the Machine Tool Laboratory, Smith later brought it up to date, partly by acquiring machinery that the government no longer needed following the end of World War II.

Smith aided Army in WWII

Smith had played a special role during the war as chief plant engineer at the Hemphill Co. in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, a manufacturer of the knitting machines for men's hosiery. At the request of the U.S. Army, he converted production to the manufacture of gunsights for the leading M1 rifle, earning the factory a government award at the end of the war.

Smith's research was in the areas of manufacturing, productivity, metal cutting, and materials processing. He wrote a number of papers for professional journals, contributed to several books, and was a consultant to industry.

When Smith was elected chairman of the Boston chapter of the American Society of Tool Engineers in 1951, a reporter asked him for a definition of "tool engineer." He replied, "The prime function of tool engineering is to take a design engineer's blueprints and determine how and with what to produce the product that has been designed."

Smith was a Life Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the American Society of Tool and Manufacturing Engineers.

Smith leaves his wife; a daughter, Priscilla A. Smith; and her husband, James C. Michener, also of Concord.