Stuart W. Churchill

Born: June 13, 1920 | Imlay City, MI, US
Died: March 24, 2016 | Glen Mills, PA, US

Stuart Churchill attended the University of Michigan, where he was quite active in the mathematics department as well as in chemical engineering. After working in industry for five years, at Shell Oil and Frontier Chemical, he returned to Michigan for graduate school. There he began both his extensive research on heat transfer, natural convection, and combustion, as well as his career in teaching. After earning his PhD and a position on Michigan's faculty, he began work on several military projects in the nuclear field. In addition, he served on the National Council of and as president of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. After acquiring increasing administrative responsibilities as chairman of the department, he chose to move to the University of Pennsylvania to return his focus to research and teaching. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0016
No. of pages: 105
Minutes: 300

Interview Sessions

Joseph C. Marchese and Jeffrey L. Sturchio
21 and 28 March 1985
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Abstract of Interview

Stuart Churchill begins with background information about his family and early education. He then describes his undergraduate years at the University of Michigan, where he was quite active in the mathematics department as well as in chemical engineering. After working in industry for five years, at Shell Oil and Frontier Chemical, he returned to Michigan for graduate school. There, he began both his extensive research on heat transfer, natural convection, and combustion, as well as his career in teaching. After earning his PhD and a position on Michigan's faculty, he began work on several military projects in the nuclear field. In addition, he served on the National Council of and as president of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. He was also active in industrial consultation. After acquiring increasing administrative responsibilities as chairman of the department, he chose to move to the University of Pennsylvania to return his focus to research and teaching. His students were always a top priority, and throughout the interview he frequently alludes to his close, continuing relationships with them. He also stresses the dramatic impact of increased use of applied mathematics and improved computer technology on chemical engineering. Churchill concludes the interview with a brief discussion of his current work, his family life, and his leisure activities. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1942 University of Michigan BS Engineering Chemical Engineering
1942 University of Michigan BS Engineering Engineering Mathematics
1948 University of Michigan MS Engineering Chemical Engineering
1952 University of Michigan PhD Chemical Engineering

Professional Experience

Shell Oil Company

1942 to 1946
Technologist

Frontier Chemical Company

1946 to 1947
Technical Supervisor

University of Michigan

1948 to 1949
Research Assistant, Department of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering
1949 to 1950
Research Associate, Department of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering
1950 to 1952
Instructor, Department of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering
1952 to 1955
Assistant Professor, Department of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering
1955 to 1957
Associate Professor, Department of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering
1957 to 1967
Professor, Department of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering
1961 to 1967
Chairman, Department of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering

University of Pennsylvania

1967 to 1990
Carl V.S. Patterson Professor of Chemical Engineering
1990 to 2016
Carl V.S. Patterson Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering

Honors

Year(s) Award
1961

Phi Lambda Upsilon Award for Outstanding Teaching and Leadership, University of Michigan

1961

Citation for Research Contributions, Air Force Aeronautical Systems Division

1964

Professional Progress Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineers

1966

Honorary Fellow, Chemical Institute of Canada

1966

President, American Institute of Chemical Engineers

1969

William H. Walker Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineers

1971

Elected Fellow, American Institute of Chemical Engineers

1974

Elected Member, National Academy of Engineering

1977

S. Reid Warren, Jr., Award for Excellence in Teaching, University of Pennsylvania

1977

Visiting Researcher Award, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science

1978

Warren K. Lewis Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineers

1979

Max Jakob Award in Heat Transfer, American Society of Mechanical Engineers and American Institute of Chemical Engineers

1980

Founders Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineers

1981

Special Honorary Issue, Chemical Engineering Communications

1983

Diamond Jubilee Medallion, American Institute of Chemical Engineers Heat Transfer and Energy Conversion Division

1983

Eminent Chemical Engineer, Diamond Jubilee of the American Institute for Chemical Engineers

1983

Elected Corresponding Member, Verein Deutscher Ingenieure

1987

Featured Engineer, Chemical Engineering Progress

Table of Contents

Family and Early Education
1

Born in Imlay City, Michigan. Guidance counselor encourages study of chemical engineering. Predisposed to University of Michigan because mother attended. Diverse academic and extracurricular interests. Chicago World's Fair heightens interest in science.

University of Michigan, Undergraduate
4

Strong interest in applied mathematics. Plays in marching band. Chemical engineering department has strong ties with industry. Works on senior research project under Don Katz. Discussion of textbooks and faculty.

Shell Oil Company
14

Deferred from draft. Works on catalytic cracking. Urgency caused by war. Develops anti-rust compound for turbine oil.

Frontier Chemical Company
21

Curtis Cannon convinces to join new enterprise. Starts electrochemical plant to produce hydrochloric acid using new method. Builds and operates plant with few engineers. Endeavor is extremely successful but requires tremendous amount of time and energy. Leaves because of impending sellout.

University of Michigan, Graduate School
27

Disheartened by industry. Receives MS Eng. in 1948. Stunned by changes that had taken place in chemical engineering and applied mathematics. Begins teaching while working as research assistant, taking graduate courses, and working on thesis. Fellow graduate students and faculty. Updates heat transfer and fluid flow course. Studies and publishes on heat transfer at great temperature differences and ignition of propellants with Brier. Much of research sponsored by the military.

University of Michigan, Faculty Member
36

Works on Armed Forces Special Weapons Project to develop shield against nuclear weapons. Limited by lack of computer technology. Research on radiative scattering. Turns to natural convection and combustion. Hellums, a student, develops method for simplifying partial differential equations. Work for nuclear industry. Among the pioneers in using computers. Requires all students to have strong mathematics and physics backgrounds. Influence of R. R. White. Rankings of various chemical engineering programs. Effects of Transport Phenomena and the rate concept. Trends in engineering education.

American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE)
56

Member of National Council. Serves as vice president, president, and past president. Active in improving university–industry relations. Government Relations Committee. Broadens international relations.

Major Accomplishments at University of Michigan
60

Research on attenuation of thermal radiation from nuclear weapons. Mathematical advances.

Industrial Consulting
62

Katz, White, and Brown foster numerous opportunities. Research on liquid heat transfer, radiative transfer through fibrous materials, and ignition of propellants. Promotes exchange of information between industry and academe. Students and consulting projects. Helps arrange DuPont and Hercules program for young faculty members.

University of Pennsylvania
65

Leaves Michigan to return focus to teaching and research. Comparison of Penn and Michigan. Restarts combustion work with Joseph Chen. Continues to work closely with Hiroyuki Ozoe after Ozoe returns to Japan. International flow of students. Maintains close relationships with most students. Quality of facilities is frustrating but inspires use of superior methods. Importance of integrating theory and experimentation. Devises exceptional method of correlation. Current publishing activities.

Changes in Chemical Engineering
75

Shift from empirical basis to theoretical orientation. Impact of computers and advanced mathematics. Effects on industry. Changes in quality of various universities' programs. Importance of a productive faculty. Evolution of industrial relations. Close-knit chemical engineering community endures. Journals. Changes in textbooks.

Approach to Teaching
80

Rarely uses textbooks. Interactive approach. Encourages students to consider teaching. Descriptions of students and subsequent careers.

Current Activities
87

Hopes to resume research on natural convection. Much work with combustion. Professional organizations. Major awards. Family. Final statements on passion for chemical engineering.

Notes
91
Index
95

About the Interviewer

Jeffrey L. Sturchio

Jeffrey L. Sturchio is president and CEO of the Global Health Council. Previously he served as vice president of corporate responsibility at Merck & Co., president of the Merck Company Foundation, and chairman of the U.S. Corporate Council on Africa. Sturchio is currently a visiting scholar at the Institute for Applied Economics and the Study of Business Enterprise at Johns Hopkins University and a member of the Global Agenda Council on the Healthy Next Generation of the World Economic Forum. He received an AB in history from Princeton University and a PhD in the history and sociology of science from the University of Pennsylvania.

Joseph C. Marchese

Joseph C. Marchese received a BS in physics from St. John’s University, an MA in physics from Columbia University, an MA in history of science from the University of Notre Dame, and a PhD in history of science from Princeton University. He has taught high school physics, mathematics, and chemistry, and has held positions at Visual Education Corporation and Mathematical Policy Research, Inc. He served as a consultant to CHF's Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry in 1984–1985.