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 Stories for May 6, 1998:

Regular Features:

Celebrating 50 Years of Chemical Engineering

by Greg Butera, College of Chemistry
posted May. 6, 1998

The Department of Chemical Engineering celebrated its 50th anniversary April 22 at the Faculty Club with a gathering of alumni, retired and current faculty and staff and students.

Chair Harvey Blanch introduced speakers from different eras of chemical engineering at Berkeley, who shared their perspectives about the early years, the special relationship with chemistry at Berkeley, the changing nature of research, and the future of chemical engineering. Speakers included prof. emeritus Charles Wilke, the first department chair; prof. John Prausnitz, who joined the department in 1955; and former chairs Alexis T. Bell, now dean of the College of Chemistry, and C. Judson King, now vice president and provost of UC systemwide.

Chemical engineering was taught at Berkeley as applied chemistry in the early years and dubbed “chemical technology” as early as 1912. In 1942, an interdepartmental program in chemical engineering was developed between the Colleges of Engineering and Chemistry, but chemical engineering was formally installed in Chemistry in 1945.

The PhD program was approved in 1947, and the BS degree was established in 1948.

Chemical engineering became a separate department in 1957. Its close ties with chemistry have put the chemical engineering department at the forefront of research in new materials, semiconductors, catalysis, separations, and biotechnology.

Berkeley was recently ranked second in the United States in chemical engineering according to U.S. News & World Report, and ranked third by the National Research Council Survey in 1995.

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