Chemical Engineers of the Foundation Era

The history of chemical engineering encompasses more than 100 years and hundreds of thousands of engineers. Many of the engineers who founded the profession and established the discipline in the first half of the 20th century remain “household names” in chemical engineering labs and industry. In 2008, AIChE’s Centennial Celebration Committee tipped its hat to a select few of these engineering heroes of the “Foundation Age” —prior to World War II.


Neal R. Amundson (1916–2011)
BS and MS in chemical engineering, PhD in mathematics, Univ. of Minnesota. Recognized for achievements as a pioneering chemical engineering educator; chair of the 1988 U.S. National Research Council report “Frontiers in Chemical Engineering.”

Leo Baekeland (1863–1944)
Recognized for achievements including the invention of Velox photographic paper and the discovered Bakelite. One of the founders of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).

Manson Benedict (1907–2006)
BS in chemistry, Cornell Univ.; PhD in physical chemistry, MIT. Recognized for leadership including: headed development of uranium U-235 gaseous diffusion plant; Benedict-Webb-Rubin equation of state for fluid dynamics.

William Burton (1865–1954)
BS, Western Reserve Univ.; PhD, Johns Hopkins Univ. Recognized for achievements including invention of petroleum thermal cracking.

Thomas H. Chilton (1899–1973)
Chemical engineering degree from Columbia Univ., 1922. Recognized for achievements including: outstanding research at DuPont; Chilton-Colburn analogy.

Karl P. Cohen ((1913–2012)
Recognized for leadership including: large-scale production of U-235; work with the General Electric Company's Nuclear Energy Group.

Allan P. Colburn (1904–1955)
PhD in chemical engineering, Univ. of Wisconsin. Recognized for achievements as a pioneer of heat transfer and energy flow, including the Chilton-Colburn analogy.

W. Kenneth Davis (1918–2005)
BS and MS in chemical engineering, MIT. Recognized for achievements including: head of reactor development, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission; VP, Bechtel Nuclear; Deputy Secretary of U.S. Dept. of Energy.

John V. N. Dorr (1872–1962)
Recognized for achievements including the invention of continuous process sedimentation and filtration equipment, which revolutionized solid-liquid separation.

Thomas B. Drew (1902–1985)
BS and MS in chemical engineering, MIT. Recognized for achievements including: the first systematic use of heat, mass and momentum fundamentals in industrial applications; key contributor to Hanford isotope separation.

Harry G. Drickamer (1918–2002)
BS, MS and PhD in chemical engineering, Univ. of Michigan. Recognized for achievements including: pioneering physical/chemical studies of solids using high pressures; first to use infrared and ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy at high pressure.

Merrell Fenske (1904–1971)
ScD in chemical engineering, MIT. Recognized for achievements including: first head of Pennsylvania State Univ’s chemical engineering department; established petroleum engineering curriculum; namesake for Penn State’s elite petroleum refining laboratory.

Colin G. Fink (1881–1953)
Recognized for achievements including: development of ductile incandescent tungsten lamp filaments; insoluble copper anode; hot dipped aluminum coatings.

Edwin Gilliland (1909–1973)
BS, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; MS, Penn State; PhD, MIT — all in chemical engineering. Recognized for achievements including: director of synthetic rubber production during WWII; wetted-wall mass transfer; butadiene recovery; ion exchange; heterogeneous catalysis.

Vladimir Haensel (1914–2002)
BS and MS in chemical engineering, Northwestern Univ.; PhD, MIT. Recognized for achievements including cryogenic gas liquefaction and separation technology, especially for the production of liquefied natural gas.

Carroll A. Hochwalt (1899–1987)
Recognized for achievements including: work on highly toxic tetraethyl lead in large quantities; low sudsing washing machine detergent; vice president, Monsanto.

Hoyt C. Hottel (1903–1998)
BS in chemistry, Univ. of Indiana; MS in chemical engineering, MIT. Recognized for achievements including: work in fuels and combustion; radiant-heat expert and early solar energy pioneer; built three solar houses.

George E. Holbrook (1909–1987)
BS, MS and PhD in chemical engineering, all from Univ. of Michigan. Recognized for leadership including: product development at DuPont; director of the Chemical, Rubber, and Forest Products Bureau at the National Production Authority (NPA); charter member of National Academy of Engineering.

Olaf A. Hougen (1893–1986)
Achievements recognized with five AIChE awards, the Esso Award of the American Chemical Society, the Lamme Gold Medal Award of the American Society for Engineering Education and election to the National Academy of Engineering.

Donald L. Katz (1907–1989)
BS, MS and PhD in chemical engineering, Univ. of Michigan. Recognized for achievements including: work in petroleum and reservoir engineering; underground gas storage; heat-transfer phase behavior.

Chalmer G. Kirkbride (1907–1998)
Recognized for leadership in industrial and academic research; chairman of Houdry, Sun, Magnolia; author of 1947 first edition of “Chemical Engineering Fundamentals.”

Sidney D. Kirkpatrick (1894–1973)
Recognized for leadership: editor-in-chief of “Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering;” Electrochemical Society president.

Mooson Kwauk (1920–2012)
BS, Univ. of Shanghai; MS, Princeton Univ. Recognized for leadership in fluidization, chemical reaction engineering and extractive metallurgy.

Ralph Landau (1916–2004)
PhD in chemical engineering, MIT. Recognized for leadership and pioneering work: with ethylene oxide, terephthlalic acid, maleic anhydride, Oxirane, and acetic anhydride processes; founded Scientific Design/Halcon.

Warren K. Lewis (1882–1975)
Recognized for achievements including: co-author of “Principles of Chemical Engineering;” basis for quantitative unit operations calculations; pioneered fluidized beds leading to catalytic cracking.

Arthur D. Little (1863–1935)
Studied chemistry at MIT before the advent of chemical engineering. Recognized for achievements including: AIChE founder; coined the phrase “unit operations;” expertise in sulfite papermaking; famed company founder.

W. Robert Marshall (1916–1988)
BS in chemical engineering, Armour Institute (now Illinois Institute of Technology); PhD in chemical engineering, Univ. of Wisconsin. Recognized for achievements including pioneering work in transport phenomena, boundary layer theory, transport phenomena and statistics, and the use of these to solve critical problems in spray processing.

Walter G. May (Born 1918)
BS and MS in chemical engineering, Univ. of Saskatchewan; ScD, MIT. Recognized for achievements including: work in fluidization; high-energy propellants; liquefied natural-gas technology and centrifugal isotope separation theory and practice.

William H. McAdams
Recognized for achievements including: author of ‘Heat Transfer;” use of laminar boundary-layer theory.

Jerry McAfee (1916–1995)
ScD in chemical engineering, MIT. Recognized for leadership: in industrial research development; president of Gulf Oil.

Warren McCabe (1899–1982)
BS, MS and PhD in chemical engineering, Univ. of Michigan. Recognized for achievements including: McCabe-Thiele technique for analyzing distillation columns; author of “Elements of Chemical Engineering.”

John J. McKetta (Born 1915)
Chemical engineering graduate, Tri-State Univ. (now Trine Univ.); PhD in chemical engineering, Univ. of Michigan. Recognized for achievements including: “Encyclopedia of Chemical Processing and Design;” energy conservation and environmental protection; service to the Institute.

Victor Mills (1897–1997)
Chemical engineering degree, Univ. of Washington. Recognized for achievements including: faster Ivory Soap manufacture; prevented Jif peanut butter separation; improved Duncan Hines cake mixes; invented Pampers.

Eger V. Murphree (1892–1962)
BS and MS in chemistry, Kentucky Univ. Recognized for achievements including: invention of fluid cata­lytic cracking; leader in developing synthetic toluene, fluid coking; Murphree plate efficiency. Formed and served as president of Exxon Research and Engineering.

Donald F. Othmer (1904–1995)
BS in chemical engineering, Univ. of Nebraska; MS and PhD in chemical engineering, Univ. of Michigan. Recognized for achievements including: the Othmer still; cellulose acetate and artificial silk fibers; RDX explosives; co-author of “Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology.”

Max Stone Peters (1920–2011)
BS and PhD, Penn State Univ. Recognized for achievements including plant design and economics for chemical engineers.

William G. Pfann (1917–1982)
Recognized for achievements including: increasing semiconductor purity; reduced metallic and semi-metallic dislocations from 3.5 million per cm2 to near zero.

Robert L. Pigford (1917–1988)
BS in chemical engineering, Mississippi State Univ.; MS and PhD in chemical engineering, Univ. of Illinois. Recognized for achievements including: pioneering process models for absorption with reaction; cycling zone adsorption; sulfur dioxide by chemisorption.

Margaret H. Rousseau (1911–2000)
BS in chemical engineering, Rice Univ.; PhD in chemical engineering, MIT. Recognized for achievements including: design of first large penicillin plant; first American woman to earn a PhD in chemical engineering; first female AIChE member. AIChE Founders Award winner, 1983.

Eli Ruckenstein (Born 1926)
BS and PhD, Polytechnic Institute, Bucharest. Recognized for achievements including: pioneering nucleation and growth kinetics; colloidal and emulsion stability impacts on material science. Recipient of the National Medal of Science.

J. Henry Rushton (1905–??)
Recognized for achievements including: pioneering fundamentals of mixing; Rushton mixing turbine; service to the Institute.

Samuel P. Sadtler (1847–1923)
Studied at Gettysburg College and Harvard Univ. Recognized for leadership including: co-founder and first president of AIChE, 1908–1909; expert in legal and forensic chemistry; founded Sadtler Research Laboratories.

Thomas K. Sherwood (1903–1976)
BS, McGill Univ; PhD in chemical engineering, MIT. Recognized for achievements including: research in mass transfer, particularly solids drying, absorption, extraction, packed-tower and bubble-cap distillation; Sherwood Number named in his honor.

Mott Souders, Jr. (1904–1974)
BS in chemical engineering, Montana State Univ; MS and PhD in chemical engineering, Univ. of Michigan. Recognized for leadership including: work in mass transfer and extractive distillation processes; coined “K-value,” “stripping factor,” and “extractive distillation;” director of Shell Oil Development.

Ernest Thiele (1895–1993)
BS in chemical engineering, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; MS and PhD, MIT. Recognized for achievements including: McCabe-Thiele method of analyzing distillation; Thiele modulus for catalyst effectiveness.

William Hultz Walker (1869–1934)
Recognized for achievements including: AIChE founder; instrumental in setting up the World War I chemical warfare program; organized chemical engineering at MIT; cellulose and silk manufacturing techniques.

Kenneth Watson (Born 1921)
BS, MS and PhD in chemical engineering — all from Univ. of Wisconsin. Recognized for leadership including pioneering use of basic principles of mathematics, chemistry and physics in analysis of chemical processes.

James W. Westwater (1919–2006)
BS, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; PhD, Univ. of Delaware. Recognized for achievements including: heat transfer in boiling and condensation; pioneer of high-speed film studies.

Richard H. Wilhelm (1909–1968)
BS, MS and PhD in chemical engineering, Columbia, Univ. Recognized for achievements including: pioneering work in fluidization; discovered “parametric pumping;” authority on chemical reaction engineering.

Charles R. Wilke (1917–2003)
BS, Univ. of Dayton; MS, Washington State Univ.; PhD, Univ. of Wisconsin — all in chemical engineering. Recognized for achievements in molecular diffusion; microbiological processes at Univ. of California, Berkeley.