FALMOUTH – Dr. Warren Max Rohsenow would greet people with a smile of delight and a sparkle in his sky-blue eyes.

He treasured getting to know people. It didn’t matter whether he met them during his long, distinguished scientific career or in other areas of his very well-rounded life.

“He just wanted to know you. As a result, as you can imagine, people wanted to know him too. Everybody fell in love with him,” said Sandra Plette of Falmouth, one of his daughters.

Dr. Rohsenow died at his home Friday. He was 90.

Dr. Rohsenow — known to many as “Rosy” — moved to Falmouth in 1990, after his retirement. A mechanical engineer, he was an expert in heat transfer and thermodynamics whose research formed the foundation for many modern developments in thermal power. He was a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and director of the university’s Heat Transfer Lab, which was renamed after him.

Dr. Rohsenow co-founded Dyna-tech Corp. in 1959. He was chairman of the Massachusetts consulting and manufacturing company, whose work included advances in cryosurgery, blood testing, cooling systems, lightning detection and weather mapping.

He grew up primarily in Chicago, went to Northwestern University for his undergraduate work and then Yale University for his graduate studies.

He met his wife, Towneley, in Annapolis, Md., while he was stationed there in the Navy. The couple had five children.

The two shared a deep connection. As his health waned, Dr. Rohsenow spoke about joining his wife, who died in 2001.

Piano was a particular passion for Dr. Rohsenow. He was an accomplished jazz pianist who liked the peppy, upbeat style of Benny Goodman. As a youngster in Depression-era Chicago, he earned his lunch money playing piano.

He was known for having a piano at his office at MIT and would sometimes roll it into the corridor to play. He could take over when the pianist at the hotel bar took a break. At neighborhood club shows, he played while his wife sang.

In Falmouth, the couple settled into a home around the corner from Plette and her family. After school, Plette’s two children would visit “Pop Pop,” who had a playful, loving manner with them and was always teaching them

Dr. Rohsenow’s influence can be seen in the paths chosen by his grandchildren. Plette’s two daughters — Nicole Bezanson and Kristen Grannell — have pursued careers in science. Their cousins — Noah Thomas and Will Rowan — work in music.

“One of the defining characteristics of my dad was education. He was a teacher. He loved to mentor people,” Plette said.

The instinct was visible when Dr. Rohsenow appeared at an Eagle Scout ceremony in April 2010. He was not well enough to speak himself, but he had prepared remarks that Plette delivered on his behalf.

In his comments, he related how problem-solving factored into his career at MIT and Dynatech. He explained that those successes were not so different from winning merit badges. They all required figuring out what needs to be done, forming a plan and doing it.

His appearance led to Dr. Rohsenow being awarded last month with the rank of Distinguished Eagle Scout, one of only two in Maine. Officials made a personal presentation May 11 in the living room of his home. 

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

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