Dr. Johannes Martinus Burgers, 86, a leading authority on fluid dynamics and professor emeritus of the University of Maryland's Institute for Hpysical Science and Technology, died of pneumonia Sunday at the Sligo Gardens Nursing Home in Takoma Park. He had Parkinson's disease.
Born in Arnhem, The Netherlands, Dr. Burgers studied advanced mathematics and theoretical physics before entering the University of Leiden, where he studied with the world-renowned Dutch physicists H. A. Lorentz and Heike Kamerlingh Onnes, earning a doctorate in mathematics and physics in 1918.
That year, at the age of 23, he was appointed professor of aerodynamics and hydrodynamics in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Shipbuilding at the Technical University of Delft.
In 1955, he resigned at Delft to become research professor at the University of Maryland's Institute for Fluid Dynamics and Applied Mathematics, now the Institute for Physical Science and Technology. He was named professor emeritus when he retired 10 years later.
After retiring, Dr. Burgers continued part time as research professor.
He was author of two scientific books and a book on the philosophy of life, "Experience and Conceptual Activity," published in 1965.
Dr. Burgers helped organize and promote international cooperation in theoretical and applied mechanics and related subjects. In 1924, he helped organize the first International Congress for Applied Mechanics in Delft and later served as a member of the International Committee for the Congresses.
In the 1040s, he was a founder of the International Union of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, which was admitted to the International Council of Scientific Unions in 1947. He served as general secretary of the union from 1946 to 1952, was a member of its general assembly and served as secretary of its Joint Commission on Viscosity and Plasticity.
He also helped in organizing the first three International Symposia on Cosmical Gasdynamics and two international congresses on rheology, the science of the deformation or flow of material.
Dr. Burgers was a member of many professional and academic societies, including the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences. He was a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the New York Academy of Sciences and the Royal Aeronautical Society in Great Britain.
His awards included the 1960 prize of the Italian Academy of Science at Turin and the Bingham Medal of the Society of Rheology.
In the 1960s, he served as chief investigator under an Air Force grant studying unknown phenomena involved in high speed air and heat flow.
Dr. Burgers, who lived in Hyattsville, also was an artist and collector of Greek and pre-Columbian art.
His first wife died in 1929. Survivors include his wife, the former Anna Vaerhoeven of Hyattsville; two children by his first marriage, Herman Burgers, Minister for Human Rights, The Netherlands, and a daughter, Dr. Marion Burgers, both of Amsterdam, and two grandsons.
The family suggests expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Dr. J. M. Burgers Memorial Fund, Department of Neurology, George Washington University Hospital.