John Loth – Dominion Post

John L. Loth, Ph.D., 88, of Morgantown, died May 13, 2022. He and his wife Harriet recently moved to York, Pennsylvania to be closer to their daughter, Marianne Babcock. Sons, Frank Loth and Eric Loth, often visit from their homes in Boston and Charlottesville, Va. John and Harriet were together for 49 wonderful years.

Born on September 14, 1933 in The Hague, Netherlands, John was the son of Fina Johanna and Julius Eduard Loth. John’s beloved sister, Julia Johanna Drukker-Loth, died in 2018.

John earned his BSc, MSc and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at the University of Toronto, where he was on the boxing team and excelled as a heavyweight boxer. He took a position as an assistant professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, then moved to West Virginia University in 1967, where he became a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. . His research included many groundbreaking discoveries and inventions, including the first foam-based solar panel (installed on top of the WVU Engineering Building), the first controlled-circulation flight demonstrator (which flew from Morgantown Airport) and the first wind turbine with centrifugal overspeed control (which ran for many years at WVU Apple Orchard). His work has been published in more than 20 national journal articles and proceedings that have since been cited by hundreds of other researchers. He also founded two engineering companies and was sought nationwide for his advice, including as an expert witness in air crash investigations.

However, his greatest professional joy was teaching, mentoring and working with students. This included advising many design, build and flight teams that competed with great success, and advising his Ph.D. students, who made new technological breakthroughs in aerodynamic and energy systems. He has been praised for his research and teaching (seven awards at WVU) and was an inaugural member of the College of Engineering Academy of Outstanding Teachers. Because of his love for teaching and advising students, he continued as a teacher until he was 80 years old.

When he was not teaching, John enjoyed being with his family and especially his grandchildren. He also enjoyed flying airplanes, riding motorcycles and bicycles, playing squash and tennis, water skiing and snow skiing, motor boating and sailing, scuba diving and tuba, as well as building and repairing anything mechanical for everyone.
A celebration of John’s life will be held this summer in Morgantown (date and location TBD).

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the West Virginia University John L. Loth Aerospace Engineering Scholarship Fund 3Z219. To donate by check, please quote the name of the scholarship and send to One Waterfront Place, 7th Floor, PO Box 1650, Morgantown, WV 26507-1650. To donate by credit card, go to and click on the “Greatest Needs” tab. Then add the fund to the designation at the top of this page.

Etzweiler Funeral Homes and Cremation Service Arrangements, 1111 E. Market St. York, PA 17403.


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