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Prof. Albert G.H. Dietz, building engineer, is dead at 91

Professor Emeritus Albert G.H. Dietz, a building engineer who held appointments in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Department of Architecture, died on April 28 of natural causes. He was 91.

Experience as a carpenter in his father's home-building business led to his interest in construction. Professor Dietz was known for his work in building technologies, particularly the use of plastics. His work on plastic-impregnated compressed wood led to the creation of the Plastics Laboratory at MIT. He was a member of the Committee on Space Heating with Solar Energy, formed in 1945 to continue the work of Professor Hoyt Hottel. The group built several experimental houses between 1945 and 1960.

Professor Dietz, a longtime resident of Winchester, MA, was born in Lorain, OH and earned the AB from Miami University in Ohio in 1930. He received the SB (1932), SM (1936) and ScD (1941) fom MIT. He joined the faculty as an assistant professor in 1946 and attained the rank of full professor in 1951. He became a professor emeritus and senior lecturer in 1973. During his career, he taught many students who went on to illustrious careers, including architect I.M. Pei (SB '40).

He won numerous awards, including the Desmond Fitzgerald medal from the Boston Society of Civil Engineers, the Passive Solaar Building Award from the International Solar Energy Society, the International Gold Medal from the Society of Plastics Engineers and four different honors from the American Society for Testing and Materials. He was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society of Civil Engineers and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In 1977, Professor Dietz was named the "Construction Man of the Quarter Century" by the National Academy of Engineering's Building Research Advisory Board. He wrote dozens of articles and three books: Engineering Laminates, Materials of Construction and Dwelling House Construction.

In his free time, Professor Dietz was an avid lifelong traveler -- he visited every continent except Antartica -- and a keen photographer. He used his own photographs in his teaching, including 3-D images viewed with special glasses. He was also active in the First Congregational Church in Winchester, which held a memorial service for him on May 2.

Professor Dietz is survived by his wife, Ruth; a son, Henry (a political science faculty member at the University of Texas in Austin); a daughter, Margaret Denton of Ottawa, Canada; and three grandchildren. Donations in his memory may be made to the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering's Fellowship Account, Rm1-290, 77 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 6, 1998.

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