William Schowalter, original voice in rheology and colloidal dispersions, receives honorary degree

Sunday, May 31, 2020
by Office of Communications

William Schowalter, whose engineering career spans seven decades, has left a lasting mark on the study of fluid mechanics. His profound contribution was recognized on Sunday, May 31, with an honorary degree from Princeton University, where he taught for several decades.

Schowalter, the 1950 Professor of Engineering and Applied Science, Emeritus, joined Princeton’s chemical engineering faculty in 1957, after serving in the Chemical Corps in the U.S. Army. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois and his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin. In the early 1960s at Princeton, he became known as an international authority in the processing of complex fluids. Over the following two decades, Schowalter helped bring two major branches of study into the mainstream of chemical engineering research: rheology, the study of the flow of matter, and colloidal dispersions, the distribution of small, undissolved solids in a liquid mixture.

In 1989, he became dean of engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Schowalter has brought his leadership in science and technology policy to many endeavors. He has chaired numerous professional committees and served on advisory boards for several universities. He also was active in international engineering education and research, including working with universities in France, Singapore, and Saudi Arabia. In 2001, Schowalter retired as dean and returned to live in Princeton.

Among his many honors, he is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Engineering. He received the Bingham Medal from the Society of Rheology, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the William H. Walker Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). Schowalter also was named Officier, Ordre des Palmes Académiques, a French honor recognizing academic service to universities, education and science. Last year, the AIChE created a lectureship named in his honor.

In an extraordinary career, he made foundational contributions to the field of chemical engineering and influenced legions of students and scholars around the world. Friends point out his ready smile, enthusiastic personality, optimistic outlook and love of opera. Colleagues praise his ability to teach complicated topics to undergraduate and graduate students alike. The scientific world lauds his remarkable technical and professional accomplishments, his integrity, and his leadership in science and technology policy. When he retired in 2001, his pace did not slow: He became an international ambassador for higher education as special advisor to university presidents in Singapore and Saudi Arabia, broadening his already profound contributions to engineering, science and the international research enterprise.