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OLAF ANDREAS HOUGEN 1893-1986 BY CHALMER KIRKBRIDE OLAF ANDREAS HOUGEN professor emeritus of-the Univer- sity of Wisconsin, died January 7, 1986, at the age of ninety- two. He hac! been associated almost continuously with the Chemical Engineering Department at that school from 1916 until his retirement in 1963 and indirectly thereafter for twenty years. He macle major contributions to the clevelop- ment and growth of the "modern" (1925-1945) concept of chemical engineering. Professor Hougen's ancestry is traceable to fifteenth- century Norway. All four of his grandparents emigrated from Norway in the I8OOs and homesteaded in Iowa ancI Dakota. Olaf Hougen was born in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, on Oc- tober 4, 1893, the eldest of six children. His family livecI in Decorah, Iowa, from IS97 to 1907 and then moved to Ta- coma, Washington. He entered the University of Washington in Seattle in ~ 9 ~ I, at the age of eighteen. In those days, there were no courses in unit operations, material and energy bal- ances, heat and mass transfer, engineering thermodynamics, or process design. Studying mathematics beyond calculus was discouragecI. There were no textbooks in chemical engi- neering except those of a descriptive nature cleating with in- (lustrially appliecI chemistry. In addition, throughout his col- lege years, Olaf- and most other students were required 207
208 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES to find employment to finance their education. Hougen re- corclect that the entire cost of his college education was $1,689.92, of which he earned $1,044.80, or about sixty per- cent. Upon graduation in 1915, there was no professional em- ployment available to him. In the fall of 1916, however, he began his long association with the University of Wisconsin. Later, during his first year of graduate studies, on April 6, ~ 9 ~ 7, war was clecIarec! on Germany. In May ~ 9 ~ 8 Hougen was drafted, incluctec! at Camp Grant, and left for military training at Camp Wheeler, Georgia. Shortly thereafter, he was singlet! out for chemical warfare service and assigned to Saltville, Virginia, in June 1918. There, in the "salt capital" of the Confederacy, his assign- ment was to prepare sodium cyanide through the newly in- vented Bucher process, which involved the interaction of ni- trogen with a pelletized mixture of sodium carbonate, coke, and iron oxide at high temperatures. The clesired product was recovered by extraction with liquid ammonia. Hougen nearly lost his life during this assignment by acci(lentally in- haling the cyanide when removing accumulations of solids from an evaporator. Following an honorable discharge from the army, he re- turnect to Madison, Wisconsin, married Olga Berg, anct moved to Niagara Falls for employment with Carborundum Company. Here his duties inclu(lecl studying the properties of refractories for use in high-temperature environments. In September 1920 he became an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin at the modest salary of $ ~ 50 a month. Despite the fact that advanced degrees in fields such as chemical engineering were considered unnecessary at Wis- consin, Hougen worked during the summer months on his doctoral thesis. The project that constituted his thesis work hac! been initiated at the request of the American Gas Asso- ciation; its objective was the development of the theory of gas absorption in spray and packed towers. The work was con- ducted by Hougen and a graduate student namer! Kenneth M. Watson.
OLAF ANDREAS HOUGEN 209 With the exception of two summers clevoted to his thesis work, when Hougen was not in classes he spent most of his time working in industry. He found such employment to be necessary for financial reasons. In retrospect, he seems to have been fortunate in this experience in that it led him to emphasize industrial applications in his subsequent work. The decade from 1925 to 1935 was the era in which the greatest advances were macle in the fielct of chemical engi- neering. These advances occurred most particularly in the development of the principles of material and energy bal- ances. During this period, Kenneth Watson suggested to Hougen that the two of them collaborate to clevelop a text on the subject. Their product, Industrial Chemical Calculations, was published by John Wiley in 1936. In 1938 Hougen acivanced to the rank of full professor at Wisconsin, a step that marked the turning point in his career. Thus, twelve years after receiving his doctorate, years that had been full of frustration ant! lack of support, his talent and energies were finally releasecI. With tenure established ant! the prospect of talented graduate students with whom he couIc! work, he was finally able to devote time to experi- mental and theoretical studies. The focal point of his re- search became the extension of studies that he had begun in 1925 and to which Alan Colburn had contributed most sig- nificantly in ~ 929. Woric! War Il also hacl a profound effect on Hougen's ca- reer in that it postponed research activities everywhere. Luckily, Kenneth Watson returned to Wisconsin in 1942 and worked with Hougen on a number of endeavors, including advances in chemical engineering theory and practice, teach- ing, and research, as well as plant design, construction, and operations. They also initiated an ambitious program on ap- plied kinetics and inclustrial reaction rates. In 1942 the American Chemical Society, uncler Hougen's chairmanship, sponsored a symposium on the subject. It was cluring this time that the text Industrial Chemical Cal- culations was reviser! and extenclecI, giving place to Material and Energy Balances as the first part of another work, Chemical
210 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES Process Principles. In acIdition, Hougen devoted a great deal of time to the National Defense Research Committee and the War Production Board on matters related to the war effort. He also responclec! to a request from the Advisory Commit- tee on Inclustry of the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Supply that he prepare reports on progress in the woricl silicate in- dustries. Following the Chicago kinetics symposium, the University of Wisconsin Research Committee allotted an annual sum of ten thousand clolIars for a ten-year period to conduct re- search on the principles of industrial reaction rates, kinetics, and catalysis. The research sponsored by this support paved the way for further research on thermodynamics anct ap- pliecl kinetics and ultimately lecl to the books Thermodynamics and Kinetics, which were coauthored by Hougen and Ken- neth Watson. The former was later revised in collaboration with Rolanc! Ragatz. Especially satisfying and enjoyable to Hougen were his two Fulbright professorships, one in 1951 to Norges Tekniske Hogskole in Trondheim, Norway, and the other to Japan in 1957. His influence in the two countries resulted in signifi- cant changes in teaching methodology, as attested to by teachers ant! practitioners, alike. Returning from Japan by way of Taiwan, Inctia, and Thailand afforded Hougen the opportunity to provicle public lectures, to visit those coun- tries' universities, and to meet faculty and students. As he tract hoped, such exposure served to encourage many stu- clents from these countries to pursue chemical engineering studies at Wisconsin. From 1961 to 1963, he was science at- tache to the Scandinavian countries and lived in Stockholm, Sweden. Olaf Hougen retired in 1963 but continued to be actively involved in numerous public service and literary projects. One project from which he derivect much satisfaction was the preparation of an historical account of the University of Wis- consin's Department of Chemical Engineering. Also highly prized by Hougen was his receipt of the Royal Order of St.
OLAF ANDREAS HOUGEN 211 Olav, First Class, which was conferred by King Haakon in ~ 969 in appreciation for his service to Norway. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1974. Olaf was a lifelong member of the Lutheran Church and contributed both substance and time to its activities. His wife Olga flier! in 1976. His remaining years were spent in a re- tirement home in Madison, Wisconsin. Olaf Hougen's life was one of selfless dedication to his fam- ily, his profession, his students and associates, and the many ant! varier! social and professional groups with which he was affiliated. His was a life showing great self-restraint and a vitality that fount! expression in his professional work, in his public service, and in love for his fellow man. Much of his genius lay in his ability ant! desire to identify talent in others anct to create an environment in which that talent could flourish ant! bear fruit. Although it may, incleed, be said that he contributed to major changes in the practice and teaching of chemical en- gineering during a period of forty years, it is the magnificent inventory of goodness that has accumulated in the lives of those with whom he lived and worked that is Olaf Hougen's chief contribution.