Celebrating 100 years of UR chemical engineering: Gardner brings credibility

April 14, 2015


(Students operate the new double effect evaporator in 1941, with Howard Gardner down below.)

“So quietly that few students and even fewer faculty were aware of it, the University of Rochester today began an expanded program in chemical engineering, and set about developing a chemical engineering laboratory in which the ‘unit processes’ of fluid flow, evaporation, crushing and grinding, absorption, and the like can be experimentally studied,” a University news release announced in September 1938.

“There isn’t much to talk about yet,” Howard Gardner hastened to add. “We had rather wait until the work is well under way and we can talk about results, not hopes.”

gardner Gardner, hired as the University’s first bona fide chemical engineering faculty member earlier that year, brought the program “instant credibility,” John Friedly writes in his 75th anniversary book about ChemE.

Recipient of a master’s degree from MIT, Gardner (who later received a doctorate in chemical engineering from MIT) previously worked for six years as a chemical engineer at Eastman Kodak Co. and served as a chemistry instructor in UR’s extension division.

Gardner supervised the first M.S. thesis in chemical engineering at UR by Ralph E. Pike in 1939. Gardner also laid the groundwork for the program’s successful accreditation two years later, by preparing an elaborate report detailing all the improvements that had been made and even accounting for more than 100 graduates up to that time. Most were still chemical engineers.

When chemical engineering became a separate department in 1947, Gardner was named the first chair, but resigned a month later to become Director of Research and Development at Fibreboard Products in California.