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THURSTON E. LARSON 1910-1984 BY RICHARD S. ENGELBRECHT AND WILLIAM C. ACKERMANN DR THURSTON E LARSON noted engineer and leader in water quality research, cried on March 2l, 1984, in Urbana, Illinois. He left behind a rich heritage of published research finclings, major contributions to the fielct of water technol- ogy, and a research foundation. Thurston Larson was born in Chicago, Illinois, on March 3, 1910. He earned a B.S. in chemical engineering in 1932 and a Ph.D. in sanitary chemistry in 1937 from the Univer- sity of Illinois. He was a registered professional engineer i Illinois. Dr. Larson's principal work was carried out for the Illinois State Water Survey, where he began his career as an assistant chemist in 1932. By 1937 he hac! risen to the position of chemist; he became heacI of the Chemistry Section in 1948. In 1956 he was appointed assistant chief of the Water Survey, a position he helc} until his retirement in 1977. After retiring, he was awarclec! the title of assistant chief emeritus. Yet Dr. Larson's "first love" was research, and al- though he held an administrative position at the Water Sur- vey after 1948, until he retired he continued to be active in bench-level research and to develop new water quality stud- ies. As an administrator, he was instrumental in identifying and developing new programs for assessing the quality of the Illinois ground water and surface waters, programs that not 237
238 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES only depicted temporal changes in mineral constituents but also identified potential water quality problems. From 1962 onward, Dr. Larson was also professor of en- vironmental engineering in the Department of Civil Engi- neering at the University of Illinois. In that capacity he sig- nificantly enriched the clepartment's graduate program in environmental engineering by presenting seminars, advising graduate students on research problems involving water chemistry, and serving on thesis committees. Dr. Larson made numerous outstanding contributions to environmental engineering through his research in the areas of water quality assessment ant! control. He was one of the first to recognize the problems associates! with the corrosion of water pipes and, as a result, was a pioneer in corrosion research. In fact, he was the first to recognize the measure- ment of nondestructive corrosion by polarization resistance. His research on the tuberculation phenomenon associated with the corrosion of metal pipes is particularly noteworthy. Thurston Larson also cleveloped a method anct apparatus that have been wiclely adopted in industry for the accurate and sensitive measurement of steam purity. Three of the four patents that he held were related to this measurement. Dr. Larson's research interest was not limited to corrosion, however, but instead! spanned several areas involving water quality considerations. He was active in developing analytical methods for improved sensitivity in measuring chemical con- stituents in water. He was also recognized for his research in water treatment processes in particular, water softening processes ant! in the use ant! measurement of various clis- infectants that are applied to treat water supplies. His long and productive periods of active research are duly reported through his scholarly publications in technical literature. Although he was an internationally recognized researcher, Dr. Larson was also a practitioner. Those responsible for water supply utilities and others in the water technology field frequently sought his advice in analyzing and solving water quality problems. From the beginning of his professional ca-
THURSTON E. LARSON 239 reer, he maintained a deep interest in the operation and management of water treatment and distribution systems. As a result, he was well aware of the problems, both technical and managerial, that confronted the operators and manag- ers of water supply utilities. This awareness resulted in his establishing the Annual Water Works Management Short Course in 1952. This pro- gram, which has been held annually at the University of Illi- nois Allerton Park Conference Center since 1952, was the first of its kind. Dr. Larson served as its general chairman for many years. Thurston Larson was perhaps most prominent as a protes- sional leader in the American Water Works Association (AWWA). Within AWWA,s Illinois Section, he chaired nu- merous committees and held many offices, both before and after being elected! chairman of the section in 1959. At the national level, he was on the board of directors anct for many years was chairman of the association's research committee. He represented AWWA on the Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater Committee; during his tenure, the committee published the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth editions of Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater. In ~ 970 Dr. Larson was elected national president of AWWA. He was instrumental in establishing the AWWA Re- search Foundation and served on its board of trustees for many years; the foundation continues to have an active and prominent role in sponsoring water quality research. AWWA honoree! Dr. Larson with a number of awards the Gooclell Prize (1957), the George Warren Fuller Award (1961), the Diven Mecial for outstanding service (1966), the Research Award (1972), and an honorary membership award (1974~. Thurston Larson was also prominent in the affairs of the American Chemical Society (ACS) and its Division of Envi- ronmental Chemistry (formerly the Division of Water, Air, and Waste Chemistry); he was chairman of the division for a number of years. In aciclition, he represented ACS on the
240 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES U.S. Public Health Service Drinking Water Stanciards Advis- ory Committee. In 1971 he received a citation from ACS's board of directors for his role as chairman of the twenty-six- member task force that developed the report, "Cleaning Our EnvironmentA Chemical Basis for Action." This report, which was translatec! into Arabic and Japanese, had a very positive impact cluring the environmental movement of the early 1970s. Dr. Larson actively participated in the affairs of numerous other professional organizations through committee assign- ments ant! his publications. He was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Ameri- can Institute of Chemists, a diplomate of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers, and a member of the National Association of Corrosion Engineers, the Water Pol- lution Control Federation, the international Water Supply Association, the International Association on Water Pollution Research and Control, ant! the United Kingclom's Institution of Water Engineers and Scientists. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1978 for his leaclership in water supply research and those of his contributions to the fielcI of environmental engineer- ing that were related to water quality criteria and standarcls. Among his many activities was his participation as a member of various committees of the National Research Council. Dr. Larson was a member of the Subcommittee on Water Sup- plies of the Committee on Sanitary Engineering anct the En- vironment from 1958 to 1964; chairman of the Pane} on Public Water Supplies of the Committee on Water Quality Criteria in 1972; a member of the Committee on Nitrate Ac- cumulation in 1971; a member of the Subcommittee on Spe- cial Tons of the Safe Drinking Water Committee from 1976 to 1977; and a member of the Committee on the Potomac River from 1976 to 1977. Dr. Larson also actively participated in committees of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) and the U.S. Environ- mental Protection Agency (EPA). From 1960 to 1966, he was
THURSTON E. LARSON 241 a member of the USPHS Environmental Science and Engi- neering Stucly Section; he was chairman of the section from 1963 through 1966. He was a member of the EPA Advisory Committee on Drinking Water Standards in 1973. In acicti- tion, he frequently servect as a consultant on special matters to these two agencies anc! to the U.S. Army Environmental Hygiene Agency. Dr. Larson married Vecla E. Taylor in 1938. He is survived by his wife anct two sons Byron of Taipei, Taiwan, anct Bruce of New York City. Thurston Larson was wiclely admirer! not only by his professional associates but also by a wicie circle of practition- ers in the water supply industry, people who recognized his leadership in achieving the high level of water quality this country continues to enjoy. He was blessed with a congenial personality, which led to his being liked, as well as acimirecI.