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Memorial Tributes: Volume 3 (1989)

Chapter:Donald B. Broughton

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Suggested Citation:"Donald B. Broughton." National Academy of Engineering. 1989. Memorial Tributes: Volume 3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1384.
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Suggested Citation:"Donald B. Broughton." National Academy of Engineering. 1989. Memorial Tributes: Volume 3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1384.
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Suggested Citation:"Donald B. Broughton." National Academy of Engineering. 1989. Memorial Tributes: Volume 3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1384.
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Page58
Suggested Citation:"Donald B. Broughton." National Academy of Engineering. 1989. Memorial Tributes: Volume 3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1384.
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Suggested Citation:"Donald B. Broughton." National Academy of Engineering. 1989. Memorial Tributes: Volume 3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1384.
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Suggested Citation:"Donald B. Broughton." National Academy of Engineering. 1989. Memorial Tributes: Volume 3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1384.
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DONALD B. BROUGHTON 191 7-1984 BY C. G. GERHOLD SUBMITTED BY VLADIMIR HAENSEL THE AMAZINGLY RAPID technical progress that has charac- terized the last half century is the result of many separate contributions, each of which has been essential to the overall, evolving technological pattern. Donalc! B. Broughton, who contributes! significantly to this progress, died on December 2, 1984, after a short illness. Dr. Broughton made his most important contributions while working for Universal Oil Products, Inc. (UOP) (now a division of Signal), in the capac- ities of chemical engineer, senior development coordinator, manager of separation process development, and senior re- search ant! development associate, and more recently in the capacity of a consultant. The particular areas in which Broughton die! his most out- standing work are the creation and development of novel separation processes. Separation technology, although little understoocl or appreciated by the lay public, is vital to pro- vi(ling the high-purity individual components that are the necessary starting materials for producing many of the goods on which our high-technology life-styles depend. These high-purity components are normally found as com- plex mixtures, either naturally or in synthetic products. The separation process, therefore, is essential to make them use- ful intermediates for the manufacture of end products. Dr. Broughton was born in Rugby, Englancl, on April 20, 57

58 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES 1917. He anct his family livect in Rugby anc! in the neighbor- ing town of Bolton until he was seven. They came to the United States soon after, settling in Altoona, Pennsylvania, where Broughton receiver] most of his primary school edu- cation. Later, the family mover! to Philaclelphia where he at- tenclec! high school. In Philaclelphia his scholastic attain- ments earned him a chemical engineering scholarship to Pennsylvania State University. By living frugally on his $900-a-year scholarship grant ant! saving his earnings from summer employment, Broughton was able to finance a year of study at the Massachusetts Insti- tute of Technology (MIT). He received his master's degree in chemical engineering from MIT in 1940. He then spent a year working as an assistant industrial chemical engineer at Rohm and Haas but decidecl to return to MIT, from which he receiver] his D.Sc. in 1943. He remained] at MIT in various teaching and research po- sitions (with the exception of a brief period of wartime ser- vice for the Navy in Washington, D.C.) until 1949. In that year, after deciding that a period of industrial work experi- ence wouIc! enhance his expertise as a professor, Broughton accepted! a temporary position with UOP, which at that time was seeking help in organizing and updating its design methods. In 1951 UOP found itself bacIly in need of a process to separate and recover high-purity benzene from the products of its newly introduced platforming process. Broughton was askocl to participate in this development. The assignment proved ideal for both the company and Broughton, and after the successful creation of the Udex process, he was per- suaded to continue working with UOP on the development of a variety of other separation processes. Apparently, plans to return to academic life became less attractive when com- parect with the challenging opportunities UOP affordect to create novel solutions for inclustry's many pressing, unsolvec} problems in the recovery of pure, in~liviclual components ~ . . trom mixtures.

DONALD B. BROUGHTON ~9 One source of Broughton's satisfaction was undoubtedly the unique nature of UOP's business specifically the devel- opment and licensing of new processes, particularly in the petroleum refining and industrial petrochemical fielcis. An organization of this type also provicled daily contact with a stimulating stab that incluclec! many talented and experi- encec! engineers and scientists together with a corporate at- titude that encouraged both scientific soundness ant! inno- vative approaches. UOP also assured its staff of the wide use of successful technical accomplishments. In developing new separation techniques, Broughton re- lied principally on the use of mathematical models that al- lowocl him to apply final designs to a wide variety of applica- tions with a high degree of confidence. He was able to create these moclels from a minimum of ciata by applying estab- lished methods of physical chemistry and thermodynamics. With their help, Broughton was able to determine optimum flow arrangements and the choice of operating parameters, as well as to identify those areas requiring additional or more precise data. Pilot plant testing was usually a final step to ver- ify ant! correct the parameters in his models and to uncover any unforeseen problems. The validity of Broughton's approach is best (remonstrated by the large number and variety of separation units in oper- ation today that are based on the designs resulting from this procedure. One of these is the Parex process, introduced in 1971, for the recovery of high-purity para-xylene from pe- troleum products. The process is widely used throughout the worIcl ant! annually produces billions of pounds of para- xylene, which is the basic intermediate for polyester fibers. Other processes in which Broughton played a vital clevelop- ment role are similarly successful. Although his methodology called for a great amount of incliviclual effort, Donald Broughton was in no sense a loner. He thoroughly enjoyed the exchange of ideas and was always willing to listen to new suggestions. His acceptance or rejec- tion of an idea whether his or that of someone else de-

60 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES penned not on the source of the suggestion, but on whether, in his judgment, it was logical. Broughton's pioneering accomplishments in the separa- tions field! resultect in fifty sole or joint U.S. patents and at least thirty technical articles. In 1967 he receiver] the Alpha Chi Sigma Award for Chemical Engineering Research, spon- sored by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. He was elected a fellow of the institute in 1973. In addition to these honors, he was electec! to the National Academy of En- gineering in 1976 and in April 1984 receiver! the first Amer- ican Chemical Society Award in Separations Science ant! Technology. No less impressive than his technical accomplishments and recognition were his personal characteristics. A well-liked, ctignifiecI, and honorable man, Donald was always available to share his knowledge, experience, anct ideas with others. A natural teacher, he had the unique ability to present complex concepts in a form that couict be easily understood. Broughton became a U.S. citizen in 1936 ant! married in 1943; his wife Natalie survives him. He had a number of in- terests outside of his professional and technical activities, in- cluding classical music, chess, reacting, and travel. Donald Broughton will be greatly missed by his colleagues and other friends. He will be remembered as long as the people whom he influenced by his teaching and example sur- vive and as long as the results of his pioneering develop- ments continue to be employee! and enjoyecl.

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