David Hull

A special journal issue of the Journal of Optimization Theory and Applications (JOTA) was dedicated this year in honor of Professor Emeritus David Hull for his pioneering research in optimization theory and its applications toward the field of aerospace engineering. Hull was honored in this special issue alongside Professor Emeritus George Leitmann of the University of California, Berkeley.

Hull served as a faculty member in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics (ASE/EM) at The University of Texas at Austin for nearly 50 years. He was the associate editor of the Journal of Optimization Theory and Applications for over thirty years and was named Editor-in-Chief of the journal in 2010 and served in this role through 2019.

Several members of the ASE/EM community contributed to this special issue, including faculty members Ryan Russell and Renato Zanetti. Other ASE/EM contributors include alumnus Russell Carpenter, current graduate students David Ottesen and Simone Servadio, and former faculty member Jason Speyer.

Professors Russell and Zanetti were honored to be included in this special journal issue and for the opportunity to have Hull as a teacher.

“Dr. Hull taught my first optimal control class here at UT. It was a real honor for me to have a paper in this special journal issue with my most senior students (David Ottesen) who also took optimal control from professor Hull before he retired,” said Russell.

Zanetti echoes Russell’s sentiments: “Dr. Hull also taught me optimal control my very first semester at UT. He was a great instructor – I loved the class and learned a lot from it. It was a pleasure and an honor to contribute to this special issue.”

Hull’s work, which spans the dawn and maturing of the aerospace age, has been applied to the calculation of optimal atmospheric trajectories including those of launch vehicles, reentry vehicles, and missiles. In the 1980s, his work provided significant contributions on three challenging topics in aerospace including (a) optimal aeroassisted orbital transfer maneuvers, (b) guidance and navigation techniques for homing missiles, and (c) guidance along descent paths for maneuvering reentry vehicles. One of Hull’s greatest achievements is in the clarification of the use of differentials in optimization and perturbation theory. The use of differentials has made it possible to unify all the theories of optimization, especially with regards to aerospace applications.

Throughout his career, Hull has published 61 papers, two books and four book chapters. He also presented 76 papers at technical conferences and has been the principal investigator or co-principal investigator for grants and contracts exceeding $2.5M.

Hull received numerous awards over the years for teaching and research, which have included Cockrell School of Engineering’s Departmental Teaching Award and Faculty Excellence Award and the AAS/AIAA Space Flight Mechanics Conference Best Paper Award. He was named Fellow of the American Astronautical Society in 2005.