Carnegie Mellon University
History of Chemical Engineering

Chemical Engineering - A History of Innovation

Chemical Practice was one of the original courses of study offered by the Carnegie Technical Schools when they opened their doors on Oct. 16, 1905. At the time, the University educated the children of steelworkers and other families in the Western Pennsylvania region. The chemical program was offered at the time through the School of Applied Science.

The first head was Joseph James who held that position until 1936; a tenure that is probably unbeatable. The department had a faculty of five, teaching a fledgling discipline. Originally the department housed Carnegie Tech's activities in both chemical engineering and in chemistry. In 1936 the two disciplines diverged and Warren McCabe became head of the Department of Chemical Engineering with a faculty of five. Since that time both the University and the Department have evolved into internationally recognized and respected institutions. The faculty, students and alumni of the Department have made numerous and significant contributions to the evolution of Chemical Engineering into the discipline recognized today. The Department has been the home to such chemical engineering luminaries as Warren McCabe, Art Westerberg, Herb Toor, Ed Cussler, John Anderson, and Howard Brenner and includes numerous leaders of industry and academia among its faculty and alumni. Herb Toor and Ignacio Grossmann were named in 2008 to the list of 100 chemical engineers of the modern era (post WWII).

The Department of Chemical Engineering pioneered the development of chemical process systems engineering and the use of computational tools for design optimization. In addition, it is home to one of the strongest groups in complex fluids engineering. More recent strengths include efforts in catalysis and surface science, in bioengineering and in envirochemical engineering. Throughout its history the department has managed to maintain an environment for students and faculty that is both scholarly and collegial.