Professor Robert C. Reid dies at 81


Robert C. Reid, professor emeritus of chemical engineering, died May 18 at Winchester Hospital. He was 81 years old.

Reid retired from MIT in 1985 after 34 years at the Institute. His former students, many of whom went on to careers in teaching and research, remembered him as an inspiring mentor.

Jefferson Tester, the H.P. Meissner Professor of Chemical Engineering, said that when he came to MIT as a Ph.D. student in 1967, Reid was the first professor he got to know extremely well, both inside and outside the classroom.

"I couldn't have had a better experience," he said, adding that many of Reid's former students felt the same way. "Many, many generations of people have benefited from Bob's mentoring," Tester said.

Professor of Chemical Engineering Ken Smith, another former student of Reid's, said that Reid "brought a fresh, outward-looking perspective to the department. He was a fantastic teacher and much loved by students in whom he showed an active and highly individualized interest."

He was also humble and thoughtful in his approach to engineering problems, said another former student, Elisabeth Drake, visiting engineer in the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment.

"Because he took time thinking about technical challenges, he often came up with unusual approaches that were very effective," she said. "He also took time to get to know his professional colleagues as people -- it was always both challenging and fun to interact with him."

Reid also liked to have fun with his classes, occasionally dressing up for a guest lecture as the great thermodynamicist Willard Gibbs, complete with 19th-century dress, wig and accent, Drake said.

Reid earned bachelor's degrees in marine engineering from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and in chemical engineering from Purdue University. He earned a master's degree from Purdue and the Sc.D. from MIT, both in chemical engineering.

Reid co-wrote two important textbooks, "The Properties of Gases and Liquids" and "Thermodynamics and Its Applications," and served as editor of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Journal. He was director of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers from 1969 to 1971 and was a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Reid is survived by his wife of 55 years, Anna M. (Murphy) Reid of Lexington; a son, Donald M. Reid of Chapel Hill, N.C.; a daughter, A. Christine Reid of Arlington, Va.; four grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.

A funeral Mass was celebrated Tuesday, May 23, at St. Brigid's Church in Lexington, Mass.

Donations may be made to Cary Memorial Library, 1874 Massachusetts Ave., Lexington, MA 02420.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 7, 2006 (download PDF).


Topics: Chemistry and chemical engineering, Faculty, Obituaries

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