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International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness
operations which in their proper sequence and co-ordination constitute a chemical process as conducted on the industrial scale.
The ensuing development of the first structured educational curriculum at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the publication of Principles of Chemical Engineering (McGraw Hill, 1923), authored by W. H. Walker, W. K. Lewis, and W. H. McAdams, defined the intellectual scope of the new profession and the role of chemical engineers in industry. The MIT Course X was followed quickly by similar educational programs in other universities in the United States and around the world. The subsequent publication of a series of landmark textbooks, ChemicalProcess Principles: Part I-Material and Energy Balances (O. A. Hougen, K. M. Watson, and R. A. Ragatz, 1958), Mass-Transfer Operations (R. E. Treybal; 1958), Transport Phenomena (R. B. Bird, W. E. Stewart, and E. N. Lightfoot, 1960), Introduction to the Analysis of Chemical Reactors (R. Aris, 1965), and others, all originating from U.S. universities, deepened the intellectual scope of the discipline and solidified its American identity. Today, chemical engineers are in central positions determining the course of the chemical industry worldwide.
From its inception, chemical engineering has aimed to respond to and create solutions that satisfy societal needs, as every engineering discipline, almost by definition, does. These societal needs are cumulative; new societal needs arise on top of previous ones. Their evolution over the past 65-70 years, in sequence, includes defense (World War II); living standard andwell-being (creating the petrochemical industry, the “plastics” phenomenon, and scale-up of antibiotics; 1950s); space and military (the cold war and accompanying “space race” for satellites, orbiting stations and lunar exploration; 1960s); the environment (auto exhaust catalysts, clean air, clean water; 1970s); energy (energy crises beginning in the early seventies and reemerging today, alternative forms of energy); health (the biotechnology and biomedical revolution; 1970s-1980s); and the IT revolution (1990s). These waves have overlapped, creating cumulative effects, have become increasingly globalized, and coupled with technological progress have had the tendency to drive chemical engineering from macroscopic to microscopic, to nanoscale, and eventually to molecular dimensions.
Chemical engineers have been particularly effective at leading these innovations, because they have been trained to think at the molecular level—in terms of chemical, biological, and physical transformations—as well as at the process and system level. As a result, as innovations have moved from macroscopic towards microscopic, and to the nano- and molecular scales, chemical engineering has continued to provide fresh and creative insights and breakthroughs.
Furthermore, the historical dependence of industrial sectors on specific