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THOMAS BARON 1921-1985 BY MONROE E. SPAGHT THOMAS BARON, who retired in September 1981 as presi- clent of Shell Development Company, died in Houston, Texas, on May 20, 1985, at the age of sixty-four. He was born in Budapest, Hungary, on February 15, 1921, but came to America in ~ 939. He attended De Paul University, after which he continuccI his education at the University of Illinois, obtaining a B.S. (1943) and a Ph.D. (1948) in chemical engineering. He also served in the U.S. Army from 1944 to 1946. After receiving his doctorate, Dr. Baron remained at the University of Illi- nois, first as an instructor in chemical engineering from 1948 to 1949 and then as an assistant professor in the same ~le- partment until ~ 95 ~ . In 1951 Dr. Baron joined Shell Development Company in Emeryville, California, as a chemical engineer. In 1955 he became assistant head of Shell's Chemical Engineering De- partment and was named head of that department in the next year. He held that position until 1961. After an assign- ment with the Shell Chemical Company at its synthetic rub- ber plant in Torrance, California, Baron moved to Houston, Texas, in 1965 as vice-president of Shell Development's Ex- ploration and Production Research Division. In ~ 967 Thomas Baron became president of Shell Development Company, then an organization of nearly 2,000 people. He 19
20 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES held that position with distinction until his retirement in 1981. During his thirty-year career with Shell, Dr. Baron re- ceivec! several awards and distinctions that showed the high regard of the chemical engineering profession for his contri- butions and accomplishments. He received the Alan P. Col- burn Award of the American Institute of Chemical Engi- neers in 1952 ant! the Institute's Professional Progress Award in 1961; in 1973 he was electecl a fellow of the insti- tute. He also received the American Academy of Achieve- ment Award in 1962 and the University of Illinois College of Engineering Alumni Honor Awarcl for Distinguished Ser- vice in Engineering in 1967. At various times, he served on advisory councils at Princeton anc! Stanford universities and was a consultant to the U.S. Army Chemical Corps from 1949 to 1951. In 1977 Thomas Baron was electect to the Na- tional Academy of Engineering. The above paragraphs record the impersonal facts that ~le- scribe the career of Dr. Thomas Baron. Yet, there is much more to be said about this outstanding man. When Tom joined our organization, T was president of Shell Development Company with offices in Emeryville, Cali- fornia. It was my pleasure to see him through the following years and to witness firsthand much of his work. It was evi- clent to all of us from the very beginning that he was a most outstanding engineer, incleecI. In his years at Emeryville, Dr. Baron macle significant con- tributions to chemical engineering theory and practice in fluid dynamics specifically, to the areas of organic chemical reactions relating to both the petroleum and chemical pro- cess industries, of combustion phenomena, and of multi- phase separation processes. He successfully found solutions to complex problems in these areas by the use of appliecl mathematics. His publications, most notably those concern- ing the design of catalytic reactors and turbulent flame theory, are classic contributions to the literature. Most significant in these later years, however, was his per-
THOMAS BARON 21 sonal ctirection of, inspiration to, and leaclership in broad fields of inclustrial research that he perceived were necessary for his company. These fields inclucled such diverse areas as (~) extractive technologies (petroleum exploration and pro- cluction; coal extraction, benefication, and upgrading; shale of! extraction; and tar sands technology); (2) basic chemical and engineering exploratory work; and (3) process research and clevelopment in the of] and chemical products sectors. Thomas Baron was highly respected by his colleagues. Writing about him some years ago, one of his senior people expressed that respect in this way: Dr. Baron is totally committed to scientific excellence, and insists on professional excellence among those who work for him. He uses his own manifold talent in scientific, intellectual, and artistic matters to excite the imagination and inspire the efforts of scientists under his leadership. His own scientific accomplishments in mathematics, phys- ics, and chemical engineering stand as an example of the excellence which he inspires in others. His dedication to scientific excellence is based on his firm conviction that the welfare of his company, the in- dustry, and the nation demand such excellence from all who work for them. His intense commitments are tempered by a sense of fair play, human understanding, and judgment which enable him to place the . . . . nevlta ~ e pressures into a proper perspective. Thus, there has passed from the human scene another clis- tinguishect scientist. The world is better for his having been with us, and all of us who knew and worked with him will always carry happy and respectful thoughts of that associa- · ~ ton In our ~ hearts. . Dr. Baron is survived by his wife, Marjorie; his mother, Mrs. Maria Baron; anct two daughters.