Aldo Vieira da Rosa

Aldo Vieira da Rosa, variously a general in the Brazilian Air Force, Stanford electrical engineering professor, expert on ionospheric and nontraditional energy processes, and champion masters swimmer, passed away on June 8, 2015, at the age of 97. He is survived by his wife, Aili Dorothy Ranta Vieira da Rosa, following 71 years of marriage.

Aldo was born in Florianópolis, Brazil, on November 15, 1917. He was the son of Julia Weber, from Germany, and José Vieira da Rosa, a Brazilian army general. His early education took place in Brazil. After graduating from the Escola Militar de Realengo, his high school, he entered the Brazilian Air Force. In the early 1940's he was stationed in the US as part of a cooperative military program, and during this time he was relocated from Washington, D.C., to the Alameda Naval Air Station in the San Francisco Bay area. This gave him the opportunity to attend Stanford for the first time and to study electrical engineering. Although he did not have an undergraduate degree, his technical experience enabled him to be admitted into the graduate program. He completed an Electrical Engineer's (EE) degree and around the same time, in 1944, he married fellow Stanford student Aili Ranta (M.S., 1943) and moved to Harvard University. In 1945 Aldo moved back to Brazil with his new wife.

For the next twenty years Aldo was extraordinarily active in what we now refer to as aerospace activities in Brazil, while still attached to the Brazilian Air Force. From 1945 to 1951 he founded and was the first head of the Research and Standardization division of the Diretoria de Rotas Aéreas (the Brazilian FAA). Then, from 1952 to 1953 he was Associate Professor of Electronics at ITA, an engineering college in São José dos Campos. In 1954 he founded and was the first director of the Instituto de Pesquinas e Desenvolvimento (IPD) and in 1956 he became chairman of the Brazilian National Research Council. He resigned from this council following a serious injury to his leg during an international glider competition in France. This injury did not, however, prevent him from being a helicopter test pilot during the early 1960's! From 1961 to 1963 he founded and was first chairman of the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espacias, the Brazilian equivalent of NASA. Following all these activities, he returned to Stanford in 1963, with his family, to obtain a Ph.D.

Resigning from the Brazilian Air Force as a Brigadier General in 1965, Aldo completed his Stanford Ph.D. in electrical engineering in 1966 under Professor (and later astronaut) Owen K. Garriott. His research involved the first full-physics model of the electron distribution in the ionosphere including thermal processes to describe the electron and ion temperatures. This model predicted the total electron content (TEC) of the ionosphere that was first measured at Stanford University using radio signals from the Soviet Union's Sputnik, a particularly important topic at the time given the developing competition in space between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Appointed a Research Associate in 1966, and then a Senior Research Associate (1969-1980), Aldo became a Professor (Research) in Electrical Engineering in 1980. During this time, his interests gradually turned more to the fundamentals of energy processes and renewable energy. His classes on renewable energy were greatly appreciated by the students and he continued teaching these energy classes until 2011, well after his retirement and conversion to Professor (Emeritus) in 1983.

Aldo was inspiration and mentor to several Stanford University graduate students who received Ph.D. degrees under his professorship. These include:

  • Dr. Odmar Geraldo Almeida (Ph.D. 1972, Former Marketing Manager Hewlett-Packard Brasil Ltda., Campinas, Brazil)
  • Professor José Luis Bendito (Ph.D. 1973, Emeritus University Professor and Former Department Head Facultad de Ingeniería, Universidad de Los Andes, Merida, Venezuela; Founder and former President Universidad de Los Andes Televisión)
  • Dr. Paul A. Bernhardt (Ph.D. 1976, Head Space Use and Plasma Environment Section, Plasma Physics Division, Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, D.C.)
  • Professor Dimitri Antoniadis (Ph.D. 1976, Ray and Maria Stata Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Director of the Multi-University Focus Research Center for Materials Structures and Devices at MIT)

In 1972, Aldo and Dimitri Antoniadis formed the ALDI Research Corporation that manufactured and distributed polarimeters to measure ionospheric total electron content. These polarimeters were sold worldwide to university and government laboratories for the next 20 years to study the ionosphere using beacon transmissions from the ATS-3 and ATS-6 satellites.

Aldo published over twenty technical papers and two books: Fundamentals of Electronics and Fundamentals of Renewable Energy Processes. He also holds a U.S. patent on a process for the production of ammonia (U.S. Patent 4107277, issued 15 August 1978).

Aldo had many outside interests but particularly notable was his long-term commitment to swimming. As a Masters swimmer he broke 99 national records and 37 world records and at the time of his death he held world records in the 85-89 age group for the 200 meter individual medley and 200 meter breast stroke. He was inducted into the International Masters Swimming Hall of Fame in 2004.

In addition to being survived by his wife Aili, Aldo is survived by his three children, Aino, Nancy Riley, and Eric, five grandchildren, and four great grandchildren, the youngest of whom, a third great-granddaughter, Riley Martin, arrived just this last September (2015).


This Resolution in memory of the late Aldo Da Rosa, Research Professor of Electrical Engineering, Emeritus, was presented to the Senate of Stanford's Academic Council on December 3, 2015, by Antony Fraser-Smith. After the presentation the Senate members stood and observed a minute of silence. The Resolution was prepared by a faculty committee consisting of Antony Fraser-Smith, Umran S. Inan, and Howard A. Zebker.