Michael Berliner Bever, a retired professor of materials science and engineering and a founder of the scientific study of recycling, died July 17 of cancer in his Cambridge home. He was 80. Professor Bever taught at MIT for more than 50 years.
Born in Berlin, Germany, Professor Bever earned a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from Heidelberg University in 1934. He then emigrated to the United States and received an MBA from Harvard University in 1937. After a brief period in business, he attended MIT, earning a Doctor of Science degree in metallurgy in 1944.
An outstanding metallurgist, Professor Bever pioneered the application of thermodynamics to the mechanical properties of metals. He was also a leader in the use of calorimetric techniques to explore the energetics of the ordering of atoms in crystalline structures. During this period, he became one of the first practitioners of the emerging field of materials science and engineering.
In the early 1970s, Professor Bever became interested in conservation and recycling, particularly the environmental and economic aspects of the production and consumption of materials. Drawing on his backgrounds in law, management and metallurgy, he developed an integrated scientific approach to recycling. He received an award from the National Association of Secondary Materials Industries in 1972 in recognition of creating the first course in the country, if not the world, on the economics and materials aspects of recycling.
He was the author of more than 150 scientific papers, and an editor of several books. He served on numerous national panels and consulting bodies. His culminating contribution was as Editor-in-Chief of the innovative and comprehensive eight-volume Encyclopedia of Materials Science and Engineering, published by Pergamon Press in 1986. Three weeks before his death he completed editing the Concise Encyclopedia of Materials Economics, Policy and Management, one of several supplementary volumes that followed the original eight-volume work.
Professor Bever taught at MIT for more than 50 years, during which he supervised more than 40 graduate-level dissertations and was an influential teacher of many active scientists.
"Michael Bever taught more than the skills of science," said a former student, Dr. Praveen Chaudhari, an IBM researcher. "His background in law and management, his keen interest in music and literature and his strong sense of human values and the dignity of man shaped his interaction with students."
Another former student, Jerome B. Cohen, dean of the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University, said: "Michael Bever was truly a teacher's teacher. He has made us see the responsibility we had to keep on learning new things and to communicate well what we learned."
Professor Bever was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Society for Materials; a member of numerous professional organizations; an overseer of the Boston Museum of Science, and a member of the Harvard Musical Association.
He leaves his wife, Marion (Gordon) Bever of Cambridge; two sons, James of Cambridge and Thomas of Rochester, N.Y.; a daughter, Ivers Bever of Cambridge; a brother, Christopher of Chevy Chase, Md.; and five grandchildren; a sixth grandchild, Michael Gordon Bever, died before him.
A private family funeral was held on Monday, July 20. There will be a public memorial service at MIT in late September.
A version of this
article appeared in the
August 5, 1992
issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume