New Search

Stuart W. Churchill

Stuart Churchill

Detail of Image, CHF Collections

  • Born: June 13, 1920, Imlay City, Michigan
  • Died: March 24, 2016, Glen Mills, Pennsylvania

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0016
Interview Dates: March 21, 1985 and March 28, 1985
Location: University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Interviewers: Joseph C. Marchese and Jeffrey L. Sturchio
No. of pages: 113
Minutes: 300

  Abstract of Interview

Stuart Churchill begins with background information about his family and early education. He then describes his undergraduate years at the University of Michigan, where he was quite active in the mathematics department as well as in chemical engineering. After working in industry for five years, at Shell Oil and Frontier Chemical, he returned to Michigan for graduate school. There, he began both his extensive research on heat transfer, natural convection, and combustion, as well as his career in teaching. After earning his Ph.D. and a position on Michigan's faculty, he began work on several military projects in the nuclear field. In addition, he served on the National Council of and as president of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. He was also active in industrial consultation. After acquiring increasing administrative responsibilities as chairman of the department, he chose to move to the University of Pennsylvania to return his focus to research and teaching. His students were always a top priority, and throughout the interview he frequently alludes to his close, continuing relationships with them. He also stresses the dramatic impact of increased use of applied mathematics and improved computer technology on chemical engineering. Churchill concludes the interview with a brief discussion of his current work, his family life, and his leisure activities.


1942 B.S.E., Chemical Engineering, University of Michigan
1942 B.S.E., Engineering Mathematics, University of Michigan
1948 M.S.E., Chemical Engineering, University of Michigan
1952 Ph.D., Chemical Engineering, University of Michigan

  Professional Experience

Shell Oil Company

1942 - 1946 Technologist

Frontier Chemical Company

1946 - 1947 Technical Supervisor

University of Michigan

1948 - 1949 Research Assistant, Department of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering

University of Michigan

1949 - 1950 Research Associate, Department of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering

University of Michigan

1950 - 1952 Instructor, Department of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering

University of Michigan

1952 - 1955 Assistant Professor, Department of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering

University of Michigan

1955 - 1957 Associate Professor, Department of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering

University of Michigan

1957 - 1967 Professor, Department of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering

University of Michigan

1961 - 1967 Chairman, Department of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering

University of Pennsylvania

1967 - 1990 Carl V. S. Patterson Professor of Chemical Engineering

University of Pennsylvania

1990 - present Carl V. S. Patterson Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering


1961 Phi Lambda Upsilon Award for Outstanding Teaching and Leadership, University of Michigan
1961 Citation for Research Contributions, Air Force Aeronautical Systems Division
1964 Professional Progress Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineers
1966 Honorary Fellow, Chemical Institute of Canada
1966 President, American Institute of Chemical Engineers
1969 William H. Walker Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineers
1971 Elected Fellow, American Institute of Chemical Engineers
1974 Elected Member, National Academy of Engineering
1977 S. Reid Warren, Jr., Award for Excellence in Teaching, University of Pennsylvania
1977 Visiting Researcher Award, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science
1978 Warren K. Lewis Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineers
1979 Max Jakob Award in Heat Transfer, American Society of Mechanical Engineers and American Institute of Chemical Engineers
1980 Founders Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineers
1981 Special Honorary Issue, Chemical Engineering Communications
1983 Diamond Jubilee Medallion, American Institute of Chemical Engineers Heat Transfer and Energy Conversion Division
1983 Eminent Chemical Engineer, Diamond Jubilee of the American Institute for Chemical Engineers
1983 Elected Corresponding Member, Verein Deutscher Ingenieure
1987 Featured Engineer, Chemical Engineering Progress

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Family and Early Education 1

Born in Imlay City, Michigan. Guidance counselor encourages study of chemical engineering. Predisposed to University of Michigan because mother attended. Diverse academic and extracurricular interests. Chicago World's Fair heightens interest in science.

University of Michigan, Undergraduate 4

Strong interest in applied mathematics. Plays in marching band. Chemical engineering department has strong ties with industry. Works on senior research project under Don Katz. Discussion of textbooks and faculty.

Shell Oil Company 14

Deferred from draft. Works on catalytic cracking. Urgency caused by war. Develops anti-rust compound for turbine oil.

Frontier Chemical Company 21

Curtis Cannon convinces to join new enterprise. Starts electrochemical plant to produce hydrochloric acid using new method. Builds and operates plant with few engineers. Endeavor is extremely successful but requires tremendous amount of time and energy. Leaves because of impending sellout.

University of Michigan, Graduate School 27

Disheartened by industry. Receives M.S.E. in 1948. Stunned by changes that had taken place in chemical engineering and applied mathematics. Begins teaching while working as research assistant, taking graduate courses, and working on thesis. Fellow graduate students and faculty. Updates heat transfer and fluid flow course. Studies and publishes on heat transfer at great temperature differences and ignition of propellants with Brier. Much of research sponsored by the military.

University of Michigan, Faculty Member 36

Works on Armed Forces Special Weapons Project to develop shield against nuclear weapons. Limited by lack of computer technology. Research on radiative scattering. Turns to natural convection and combustion. Hellums, a student, develops method for simplifying partial differential equations. Work for nuclear industry. Among the pioneers in using computers. Requires all students to have strong mathematics and physics backgrounds. Influence of R. R. White. Rankings of various chemical engineering programs. Effects of Transport Phenomena and the rate concept. Trends in engineering education.

American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) 56

Member of National Council. Serves as vice president, president, and past president. Active in improving university–industry relations. Government Relations Committee. Broadens international relations.

Major Accomplishments at University of Michigan 60

Research on attenuation of thermal radiation from nuclear weapons. Mathematical advances.

Industrial Consulting 62

Katz, White, and Brown foster numerous opportunities. Research on liquid heat transfer, radiative transfer through fibrous materials, and ignition of propellants. Promotes exchange of information between industry and academe. Students and consulting projects. Helps arrange DuPont and Hercules program for young faculty members.

University of Pennsylvania 65

Leaves Michigan to return focus to teaching and research. Comparison of Penn and Michigan. Restarts combustion work with Joseph Chen. Continues to work closely with Hiroyuki Ozoe after Ozoe returns to Japan. International flow of students. Maintains close relationships with most students. Quality of facilities is frustrating but inspires use of superior methods. Importance of integrating theory and experimentation. Devises exceptional method of correlation. Current publishing activities.

Changes in Chemical Engineering 75

Shift from empirical basis to theoretical orientation. Impact of computers and advanced mathematics. Effects on industry. Changes in quality of various universities' programs. Importance of a productive faculty. Evolution of industrial relations. Close-knit chemical engineering community endures. Journals. Changes in textbooks.

Approach to Teaching 80

Rarely uses textbooks. Interactive approach. Encourages students to consider teaching. Descriptions of students and subsequent careers.

Current Activities 87

Hopes to resume research on natural convection. Much work with combustion. Professional organizations. Major awards. Family. Final statements on passion for chemical engineering.

Notes 91

Index 95

  About the Interviewers

Joseph C. Marchese

Joseph C. Marchese received a B.S. in physics from St. John's University, an M.A. in physics from Columbia University, an M.A. in history of science from the University of Notre Dame, and a Ph.D. in history of science from Princeton University. He has taught high school physics, mathematics, and chemistry, and has held positions at Visual Education Corporation and Mathematical Policy Research, Inc. He served as a consultant to CHF's Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry in 1984–1985.

Jeffrey L. Sturchio

Jeffrey L. Sturchio is president and CEO of the Global Health Council. Previously he served as vice president of corporate responsibility at Merck & Co., president of the Merck Company Foundation, and chairman of the U.S. Corporate Council on Africa. Sturchio is currently a visiting scholar at the Institute for Applied Economics and the Study of Business Enterprise at Johns Hopkins University and a member of the Global Agenda Council on the Healthy Next Generation of the World Economic Forum. He received an A.B. in history from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in the history and sociology of science from the University of Pennsylvania.

Hear It Firsthand

The Center for Oral History captures and preserves the stories of notable figures in chemistry and related fields, with over 425 oral histories that deal with various aspects of science, of scientists, and of scientific practices. For more information please visit CHF’s Oral History Program or e-mail oralhistory@

Annual Report

Annual Report
Take a look back at a year of preservation, research, and outreach in CHF’s annual report to supporters.

Support CHF

Help us preserve and share the history of chemistry and related sciences. Make a tax-deductible tax-deductible gift online.