Howard is appointed first Hottel Professor


The Department of Chemical Engineering has announced the creation of the Hoyt C. Hottel Professorship for a senior faculty member in the department and the appointment of Dr. Jack B Howard, internationally known for his work in combustion and fuels, as the first Hoyt C. Hottel Professor of Chemical Engineering.

With the creation of the chair, Dr. Hottel, professor emeritus of chemical engineering, joins the late Professors Warren K. Lewis and Edwin R. Gilliland as faculty who have received this honor.

The professorship was established by an endowment raised from friends, colleagues and professional associates to honor Professor Hottel for his professional accomplishments that span a career of more than 70 years at MIT.

Professor Hottel came to MIT in 1924 and served on the active faculty from 1928 to 1968, when he became professor emeritus. His career was marked by a continuing interest and achievement in the effective use of energy. Although much of his research focused on the utilization of fossil fuels, he made important contributions to solar heating and other energy related problems. He received numerous honors, included the United States Medal of Merit, the King's Medal of Great Britain and election to both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.

Dr. Howard received BS and MS degrees at the University of Kentucky in 1960 and 1961, and the PhD at Pennsylvania State University in 1965.

He joined the MIT Department of Chemical Engineering that year as Ford Foundation postdoctoral fellow and assistant professor of chemical engineering. He was appointed associate professor in 1972 and professor in 1975.

He served as executive officer of the department in 1979-81. In addition, he has held visiting scientist positions at United Aircraft Corp., Esso Research and Engineering Co. and the CNRS Laboratory for Research on the Physical Chemistry of Solid Surfaces at Mulhouse, France.

Professor Howard's research has been in the areas of high-temperature chemistry, especially mechanisms and kinetics of reactions in combustion, fuel processing, materials synthesis and waste destruction, including formation and oxidation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, fullerenes and soot in flames; pyrolysis, gasification and combustion of coal, biomasss and solid wastes; and flame and plasma synthesis of diamond, fullerenic nanostructures and metal carbides.

Early in his career, Dr. Howard worked directly with Dr. Hottel in a major study completed at MIT's newly formed Environmental Laboratory and given widespread publicity. They warned that power generation from nuclear reactors could not be expected to grow fast enough to meet mounting US electricity demands and urged a vigorous research program to make do with available fossil fuels in ways that protect the environment.

In 1991, applying the results of years of research on soot formation in flames, MIT scientists led by Dr. Howard found a new way to produce fullerenes--ball-shaped forms of carbon discovered in 1985 that rocked the scientific world with possible applications in superconductivity, catalysis, cancer therapy and more.

Because the MIT technique is based on combustion and similar to a process already used in industry, it can be scaled up to produce large quantities of fullerenes--better known as buckyballs--fairly easily. It had only been possible to produce the roughly spherical molecules in gram amounts. The MIT technique also produces macromolecular or nanoscale carbon particles consisting of curved fullerenic layers or shells instead of the familiar planar graphitic layers of conventional carbon materials.

Dr. Howard is the author or co-author of 140 journal articles and one book.

Professor Howard is a member of the board of directors of the Combustion Institute, deputy editor of the journal Combustion and Flame and has served on the editorial boards of Combustion and Flame, Fuel and Energy & Fuels.

He was chairman of the 1978 Gordon Research Conference on Fuels Science, chairman of the Nineteenth International Symposium on Combustion in 1982 and chairman of the Fuel Chemistry Division of the American Chemical Society in 1984. He also has served on national and international advisory committees and panels concerned with combustion, fuels and energy technology.

Professor Howard was the Wilhelm Lecturer at Princeton University in 1977 and Oblad Distinguished Lecturer at the University of Utah in 1989. He received the Henry H. Storch Award of the American Chemical Society in 1983, the Silver Medal of the Combustion Institute in 1984, the Bernard Lewis Gold Medal of the Combustion Institute in 1992 and the Charles L. Hosler Alumni Scholar Medal of Pennsylvania State University in 1994.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 13, 1995.


Topics: Chemistry and chemical engineering, Faculty

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