Born in Seneca Falls, N.Y., on Oct. 14, 1918, Mickley was a child prodigy who taught himself calculus in the fifth grade and graduated from high school at age 14. He attended Caltech, where his adviser was Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling, a man Mickley highly respected for his quick and inquiring mind. After receiving his BS and MS at Caltech, Mickley went on to receive his PhD in chemical engineering from MIT and was asked to join the faculty. In 1963, he was named chairman of the faculty at MIT and Ford Professor of Engineering.
At MIT, his brainchild was the creation of the Center for Advanced Engineering Studies, which developed educational programs for practicing engineers, scientists and managers in industry, government and educational institutions to attain and maintain the competence needed to exert technological leadership. One of his great strengths was his command of the advanced mathematics required to analyze complex chemical systems. As a result, he was the lead author of the textbook Applied Mathematics in Chemical Engineering, written more than 50 years ago, but still used today in engineering programs around the world.
Mickley was internationally known as an expert in fluid mechanics, heat and mass transfer, and chemical kinetics — with his research intimately involved in the methods for cooling ballistic missiles and manned space vehicles during atmospheric re-entry.
He received numerous awards, including from the American Chemical Society, as well as distinguished alumni awards from both MIT and Caltech.
He is survived by his sons, Steven (Diane) and Richard (Cynthia); his second wife, Edith; seven grandchildren, Brian, Karen, Megan, Dennis, Kim, Lisa and Eric; and eight great-grandchildren. In keeping with Mickley’s wishes, there will be no calling hours or memorial services. Interment in Seneca Falls, N.Y., will be private. Those wishing to honor him may donate to MIT, Chemical Engineering Unrestricted Fund, in memory of Dr. Harold Mickley and send it to MIT Office of Alumni Records, 600 Memorial Drive, W-98 Second Floor, Cambridge, MA 02139.