In memoriam: Rutherford Aris

Rutherford Aris PhotoRutherford Aris, Regents Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering, died November 2 in Edina, Minn. He was 76.

A brilliant scholar, Aris had an enormous impact on the field of chemical engineering through his research, publications, teaching, and advising.

Among his most important contributions are detailed explanations for sudden temperature runaways and oscillating behavior of processes involving chemical reactions, work that led to improved design of potentially explosive chemical processes and safer industrial operations.

He led the way in developing new mathematical techniques for optimizing and controlling chemical manufacturing processes and teaching these new methods to students and professional engineers. He published 13 books and more than 300 research articles, and mentored more than 65 master's and Ph.D. students.

He also held a joint appointment in the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies, where he conducted research and taught classes in paleontology.

Aris was hired in 1958 as an assistant professor by Neal Amundson, head of the University of Minnesota's chemical engineering and materials science department (1949–74), who had a keen eye for talent.

Aris was elected to the National Academy of Engineering (1975) and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1988). He received many honorary degrees and distinguished lectureships, and more than a dozen prestigious awards from engineering and scientific societies.

In 1974 Aris succeeded Amundson as department head and served in that capacity until 1978, when he was named a Regents Professor.