Services will be held this weekend for an emeritus professor and three-time alumnus who made a major impact on Case Western Reserve University and on the field of engineering. Harry W. Mergler, a member of the university’s faculty for more than 30 years, died last month at the age of 93.
As a child, Mergler developed an early love for engineering, according to an article in the spring 2006 edition of Case Alumnus. He often invented new things, which, he explained, “satisfied me when I was a young person.”
That knack for creating followed him into adulthood: Over the course of his career, Mergler held 24 domestic and international patents.
Mergler graduated from West Technical High School in Cleveland in 1942. He then attended MIT on a full scholarship, before enlisting in the Army Air Force Reserve with the 75th Division, becoming a navigator on a World War II bomber aircraft, Emeritus Professor Tom Kicher noted during a remembrance last weekend at homecoming.
Upon returning from service, he came back to Cleveland to attend Case Institute of Technology, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1948. He earned his master’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1950 and PhD in the same field in 1956.
In 1948, he started his professional career at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the predecessor to NASA. While there, he worked on the design of its first large-scale analog computer facility, and made the first documented coupling of a remote machine tool to a computer.
Nine years later, Mergler joined the faculty at Case Institute of Technology, where he established the Digital Systems Laboratory and was later named the Leonard Case Professor of Engineering. In his 30-plus years on the faculty, he advised 141 master’s students and 52 PhD students, Kicher noted.
During his career, Mergler founded Digital-General Corp., which designed and manufactured digital diagnostic instruments. He also often served as a consultant, guiding companies in the adaptation of numerical control to manufacturing systems.
He received much recognition for his work in the engineering world, including election to the National Academy of Engineering for “teaching advanced concepts of mechanical, electrical, and computer technology, and designing sophisticated machinery,” according to the election citation.
He also was named a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, which honored him with the Lamme Medal, Centennial Medial, Third Millennium Medal and the international rank of Eminent Member.
Away from his scholarly pursuits, Mergler was known for his love of sailing—especially on his 40-foot, two-mast sloop, Kicher said—and his love of sports cars. Mergler drove a red Triumph TR-3, which he later donated to the Crawford Auto and Aviation Museum, where it was on display for many years.
Services will be held Saturday, Oct. 14, at Bethany English Lutheran Church (15460 Triskett Road, Cleveland), with visitation beginning at 10 a.m. and the service at 11 a.m.