Neal Amundson, a long-time University of Houston mathematics and engineering professor who was regarded as the ‘father of chemical engineering’ – died this week. He was 95.
Amundson is credited with bringing mathematics and computation to chemical engineering, making him the world’s most prominent chemical engineer. He came to UH in the late 1970’s after building the country’s leading chemical engineering department at the University of Minnesota.
Realizing that UH’s chemical engineering program needed a strong interdisciplinary foundation, he accepted an appointment to the mathematics faculty and turned it into a research powerhouse. Before Amundson, the math department was narrowly focused on pure mathematics with negligible research funding. Thanks to Amundson’s efforts, the department is now ranked by the National Research Council and boasts strong research programs in mathematical biology, computational mathematics and other areas.
He was also instrumental in the creation of the Texas Learning and Computation Center at UH and in the establishment of the air quality modeling project in the Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences.
Amundson served as provost of UH from 1987-89. He was a member of the National Academy of Science, the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Arts and Science. He held honorary doctorates from numerous universities including Notre Dame, Northwestern and the University of Pennsylvania.
Amundson earned undergraduate and master’s degrees in chemical engineering and a Ph.D. in mathematics – all from the University of Minnesota. The chemical engineering building on that campus is named after Amundson.