CORVALLIS - Octave Levenspiel - an internationally recognized educator, mentor to students, professor emeritus at Oregon State University and one of the pioneers of chemical reaction engineering - has been elected to membership in the National Academy of Engineering.
This is one of the highest professional distinctions that can be awarded to an engineer. Levenspiel, who joins 15 other OSU alumni who are members of the academy, is the first OSU faculty member elected. Membership recognizes those who have made "important contributions to engineering theory and practice...and those who have demonstrated unusual accomplishment in the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology," academy officials said.
Levenspiel was recognized for contributions in chemical reaction engineering and introducing these into the profession as a cornerstone of the basic curriculum now studied by engineering students all over the world.
Levenspiel received his doctorate from OSU in 1952 and served as a faculty member for 25 years until his retirement in 1991. He published more than 100 papers and proceedings, two of which have been listed in the "Citation Classic." He is an author of five textbooks, one of which has been translated into 10 languages, and has presented lectures and seminars at more than 100 academic institutions in over 20 different countries.
He received the 1966 Lectureship Award by the American Society for Engineering Education, the 1979 American Institute of Chemical Engineers R.H. Wilhelm Award in chemical reaction engineering, and the 1997 Warren K. Lewis Award, the highest honor given by the society. Levenspiel received an honorary doctorate, "Doctor Honoris Causa" from the National Polytechnic Institute of Lorraine, France, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary celebration of their Ecole Nationale Superieure des Industries Chimique, in May 1987.
Levenspiel taught for more than 40 years and in writing textbooks was adept at making engineering principles interesting and understandable for students. His examples in teaching students ranged from the flight potential of dinosaurs to boiling water on Mt. Hood.
His first book, "Chemical Reaction Engineering," was published in 1962. There were five printings in its first edition and 38 in the second edition. A reviewer once said of another Levenspiel book that it was written from the heart and "students tend to sell used textbooks once they finish a subject and pass their final examination. I found that this . . . was not one of those books, seniors use it in their design courses and many graduates keep the book as a reference."
When Levenspiel retired, he found his office literally covered with more than 200 faxed messages from former students and colleagues from around the world. One of them said he has "a way of stirring up the universe - and making it interesting and exciting again."