Theodore von Kármán was a giant in aeronautical circles, a legend at Caltech. Kármán, a man of mystery and contradiction: so intellectually sharp that he could, in one moment, jot down on a cocktail napkin the solutions to a complex mathematical problem that had stymied other minds for weeks, and yet so preoccupied the other professors had to hire a chauffeur to take him to and from the university because left on his own he frequently hit another professor's car when backing out of his parking space. Kármán meant so many different things to different people: a meek, docile son to his mother, an outrageous flirt to young women, a father figure to his graduate students, a respected advisor to generals. At Caltech, Kármán was a mischievous, rambunctious, irrepressible character whose short stature belied a powerful physical presence, marked by iron-gray eyes, dark bushy eyebrows, and shock of tousled dark hair. He was a man adored by most, revered by all, and understood by very few.
Throughout his life Kármán would remember fondly his hometown of Budapest, where he was born in 1881. "Horse-drawn droshkies carried silkgowned women and their Hussar counts in red uniforms and furred hats