Elected in 1974
“For contributions to boiling heat transfer by high-speed photography at great magnification.”
BY RICHARD ALKIRE AND THOMAS HANRATTY
JAMES W. WESTWATER, emeritus professor of chemical engineering and a pioneer in the field of heat transfer, died on March 31, 2006, at the age of 86.
Born in 1919 in Danville, Illinois, he attended primary and secondary schools in Danville and, in 1937, matriculated from the University of Illinois. After receiving his B.S. in chemical engineering in 1941, he entered graduate school at the University of Delaware, where he studied under Allan P. Colburn. In 1948, he received the first Ph.D. granted in any discipline at Delaware. The same year he joined the faculty at the University of Illinois as an assistant professor. He became an associate professor in 1955 and a professor in 1959.
The central focus of Westwater’s research was heat transfer accompanying a phase change. His work was characterized by innovative experimentation, careful analysis, and a clear vision of the relationship between fundamental principles and practical applications. He pioneered the use of high-speed photography, and his remarkably precise images facilitated an understanding of the dynamics of bubble formation and growth and led to the development of realistic theories for boiling heat transfer. Westwater’s first film, made in 1954, had 80 showings at companies, universities, technical societies, and on television.