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In Memoriam
Arthur B. Metzner

Oct. 10, 2006--The following memorial tribute to Arthur B. Metzner was presented by T.W. Fraser Russell, Allan P. Colburn Professor of Chemical Engineering at the General Faculty meeting on Oct. 9, 2006:

Arthur B. Metzner, H. Fletcher Brown Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering, died suddenly on May 4, 2006, while attending a meeting in Washington, D.C. With his passing, it is appropriate to reflect on his contributions as a researcher, teacher and inspirational leader.

Art was raised in Barrhead, Alberta, a small town at the edge of the prairie located 50 miles northwest of Edmonton and 320 miles due north of the U.S.-Canadian border. The town was quite isolated, and the residents strongly bonded together. Career choices for high school graduates were made with considerable input from the community in addition to that of the student and family. Thereby, it was determined that Art should study engineering at the University of Alberta, and given the rapid expansion of the chemical industry during World War II, chemical engineering was a natural choice.

Following graduation from Alberta in 1948, Art earned his Sc.D. at MIT in 1951 under the direction of W.K.(“Doc”) Lewis. Art had a picture of Lewis in his office, and the scowl on “Doc’s” face gave irony to his other nickname, “Loveable”. Chemical engineering is serious work.

Art spent two years at Colgate-Palmolive before coming to Delaware in 1953. With his addition the department had six members including Allan Colburn and Robert Pigford. This group were very active in teaching, authoring textbooks, and research, all with the clear goal of increasing the stature of the department. Art’s progress was rapid in this environment, and he became a full professor in 1961 and the H. Fletcher Brown Professor in 1963.

Art was department chairman from 1970 to 1978. During this period the department added six faculty, published five books, established the Center for Catalytic Science and Technology (CCST), and had several prominent foreign visitors, including G.C.A. Schuit, a leading scientist in catalysis.

Art enjoyed an active consulting practice, and some of his research stemmed from these efforts. J.R. Anthony Pearson observed, “[Art Metzner] bothered to find out about real industrial problems, was full of insights into them, and felt that they were the proper starting points for academia in engineering.… [He believed] academics should look more deeply into them than industrial workers could afford to do.”

Examples of his efforts that became "textbook" material are the Otto-Metzner correlation for power consumption in the mixing of non-Newtonian fluids, his series of papers on drag reduction with the use of small quantities of viscoelastic fluids, his analysis of the flow of fiber suspension, including a landmark paper on the extensional viscosity of fiber suspensions. He described his research interests as processing of composite materials, polymer processing, fiber spinning and fluid mechanics, but in fact, his work was broader than this. His name is associated with the rheology of non-Newtonian fluids, and as such he was the editor of the Journal of Rheology. For these efforts he was given the distinguished service award by the Society of Rheology in 1997.

Art’s productivity in research merited awards from the AIChE, ACS, the American Society of Engineering Education and the Society of Rheology. He was a fellow in the AIChE and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1979. Art’s eminence as an educator and researcher was recognized on campus with the award in 1981 of the Francis P. Alison Award. In honor of his 40 years of service and leadership in chemical engineering the Arthur B. Metzner Symposium was held in 1993, and the papers from this symposium were published in the October 1994 issue of IEC Research. Art Metzner formally retired in 1997 but remained active in the department until his passing. His impact on the department remains strong.

Art developed a very special teaching technique. His courses were divided into a set of topics. Art would assign reading for each topic and then give a few lectures in which the core of this material was explained clearly, as in chapter summaries. The students were also assigned a set of comprehensive problems which often required more knowledge than covered in the lectures. The solutions to selected problems of the set were then given with a ratio of two units of problems for each unit of lecture. The students worked diligently to complete these problem sets, for Art called on the students to explain their approach. Woe be unto the student who was not prepared. Art wanted the students to gain confidence that they could get the knowledge needed to solve a specific problem on their own. This approach made them more attentive readers of the textbook and more confident of their engineering skills.

His approach to the graduate fluid mechanics course also was unique. The first class was usually on a Thursday, and Art would assign the first three chapters of McConnell’s book on tensor calculus for the following Tuesday. Even a moderate study of this material would spoil the weekend. However, this set the stage to cover the entire book in three weeks and thereby elevate the rigor of the remainder of the course.

In the late 90s, the oil production of Prudhoe Bay dropped by half, and the Alyeska Pipeline Service company hired Art as a consultant to review their operations. Art gathered a group of experts who ultimately made strategic reductions in the number of pumping stations and made use of drag reduction insights. Art brought this accumulated knowledge to the undergraduates as a design problem in the first chemical engineering laboratory course. The students found that the operation of a pipeline is much more complex than the operation of the pipe rack in the laboratory. Their problem was to specify the location of pumping stations from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. Successful solution of the problem required digestion of a large quantity of literature, understanding of fluid flow in a partially filled pipe operating with major changes in elevation, and consultation with the master, Art Metzner. This is an example of “problem based learning” at its best.

Art had great success as a mentor, a warm colleague and a friend. The most obvious role for a mentor is as a research adviser: Art directed 48 bachelor theses, 46 master’s theses, and 38 doctoral dissertations. At the beginning of the project, the mentoring was one way, but as the work progressed, Art encouraged (perhaps demanded) independent thought and insight. Art kept track of these students after they graduated, and he was a gifted and conscientious letter writer. When promotions came, Art’s congratulatory notes were incisive and instructive; the recipients felt truly honored.

Art Metzner was a skilled and subtle leader. In a university, leadership mostly is to note the strengths of the subordinate and to make suggestions for improved results. However, Art could be political when needed; he found bloodless ways of getting rid of those he judged hopeless. The correctly written letter of recommendation helped transfer an underachieving student to another institution, or a fatherly talk about career choices would help another move on. When a problem arose that needed to go up the chain of command, Art would write a polite letter describing the issue, offer several possible solutions, and then gently suggest the one he thought to be best. This approach worked because Art enjoyed great respect from all, and his recommendations were voiced to be for the good of the institution.

Art also served on the 1984 government panel that made recommendations in Report on High Performance Polymer Composites. He was on the advisory boards for chemical engineering at Princeton, McGill and MIT, and on the advisory council for the school of engineering at Penn State. He also was a member of the board of directors of the Chemical Heritage Foundation. He brought his incisive analytical thought processes to these meritorious service activities.

Art Metzner had an illustrious career, and his efforts contributed greatly to the success of this department. At the beginning of May, he was his usual interesting self in a lunch time discussion, and then he was gone. His strength of personality is still very much with us.

• • • • •

May 9, 2006--Arthur B. Metzner, the University of Delaware’s H. Fletcher Brown Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering, died suddenly on Thursday, May 4, at the age of 79.

Dr. Metzner, a native of Alberta, Canada, received his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Alberta in 1948 and his doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1951. His academic teaching career began with instructorships at MIT and Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute.

Dr. Metzner joined the University of Delaware faculty in 1953, was named the H. Fletcher Brown Professor of Chemical Engineering in 1962 and served as chairperson of the Department of Chemical Engineering from 1970-77. “These were exhilarating years in which to be chairman, for the department exhibited the same zeal I’d found in 1953,” he said in a recent interview.

Dr. Metzner’s industrial and governmental associations of substantial duration were with Air Products, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., Colgate, the Defense Research Board of Canada and the Canadian Defense Research Establishment, Dow, General Motors, Mobil, Merck, NASA, Union Carbide and Westvaco. His research studies were primarily in the areas of the processing of composite materials, polymer processing, fiber spinning and fluid mechanics.

His 130 research publications earned awards from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the Society of Rheology, the American Society for Engineering Education and the American Chemical Society. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1979, an honor that is one of the highest professional distinctions in the field, and received honorary doctorates from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and UD.

His distinction as an educator and researcher was also recognized when he was presented with the University’s highest faculty honor, the Francis P. Alison Award, in 1981. The Arthur B. Metzner Symposium was organized in 1993 to celebrate his 40 years of leadership and service at the University, and the October 1994 issue of the journal Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research was dedicated to him.