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Jack Howard, chemical engineering professor emeritus, 70

Jack Howard
Jack Howard
Photo / MIT News Office

Jack Howard, a professor emeritus in the Department of Chemical Engineering, died on July 7 after a battle with brain cancer. He was 70.

Howard received a BS in 1960 and an MS in 1961 from the University of Kentucky as well as a PhD in 1965 from Pennsylvania State University. After earning his doctorate, Howard came to MIT, where he held positions as assistant, associate and full professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and served as the department's executive officer from 1979 to 1981.

He was named the first holder of the Hoyt C. Hottel Chair of Chemical Engineering in 1995; appointed director for MIT's Center for Airborne Organics in 1996; and became a professor emeritus in 2002.

Howard was a world-renowned expert in the manufacture of nanostructured carbon materials. His research focused on high temperature chemistry, especially mechanisms and kinetics of reactions in combustion. He was the author or co-author of more than 200 scientific papers and holds 15 patents for his work.

Klavs Jensen, Department of Chemical Engineering head, noted how Howard had "made seminal contributions to many challenging research areas, including formation and oxidation polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, fullerenes and soot in flames as well as pyrolysis, gasification and combustion of coal, biomass and solid waste. Jack's expertise with these important issues at the forefront of energy challenges facing the world will be deeply missed."

Howard received numerous awards during his career at MIT, including being named to the University of Kentucky's Engineering Hall of Distinction. He won the Bernard Lewis Gold Medal from the Combustion Institute in 1992 and the Henry H. Storch Award from the American Chemical Society in 1983.

He also held several posts in various professional societies, serving as co-chairman of the Energy Research Committee of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers from 1975-1980.

"We will all miss Jack for his deep technical knowledge and his gentle, firm advice to students and faculty alike," Jensen said.

He is survived by his wife, the former Carolyn Butler, of Winchester, Mass., and their two children, Courtenay and Jonathan. The family has maintained a blog about Professor Howard's battle at

A memorial service will be held on July 16, 2008 at 10:30 a.m. at Park St. Church in downtown Boston.

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