January 7, 1925 – June 6, 2017
Noll was born in Berlin, Germany, and grew up with a propensity for physics and mathematics. After the conclusion of World War II, Noll studied mathematics at the Technical University of Berlin. As living conditions improved post-war, Noll studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and later earned his Ph.D. in applied mathematics in 1954 from Indiana University. He began working at the University of Southern California in 1955. A year later, he joined Carnegie Institute of Technology, now Carnegie Mellon, and spent the rest of his career with the university. Best known for his work in thermodynamics and continuum mechanics, Noll helped develop the Coleman-Noll procedure. The procedure serves as an interpretation to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which places restrictions on the materials that can occur in nature. Noll was a fellow of the American Mathematical Society and a founding member of the Society for Natural Philosophy and held seven visiting professorships throughout his career. He also co-authored "The Non-Linear Field Theories of Mechanics." First published in 1965 and reprinted in 2004, it has become the standard reference work in the field. "Walter would define mathematics as the art of avoiding unnecessary computations," said William Hrusa, professor of mathematical sciences. "He absolutely wanted to foster independence and creative thinking on the part of his students."