Index of Memorial Resolutions and Biographical Sketches
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JAMES R. BROCK
Professor Emeritus James R. Brock died in his home on December 7, 2011, just over three weeks prior to his eighty-first birthday, following a long illness. Jim was a pioneer in environmental science and made major contributions to research and education in chemical engineering, especially in the area of aerosol physics and chemistry.
Jim, the second of the three sons of Jerome Dalton Brock and Elizabeth Beeler Bock, was born near the Texas-Mexico border in McAllen, Texas, on December 31, 1930. He was predeceased by his elder brother, Jerome Dalton Brock, and survived by his younger brother, William E. Brock. Following Jim’s earliest years in Mission, Hidalgo County, during the “Great Depression,” the family moved to Houston, where Jim attended River Oaks Primary School. He enjoyed summer camp with his brothers and doing scientific experiments in the garage with his cousin Walter Zivley, occasionally to the consternation of their elders!
Jim’s education continued at McCallie School, which, at that time, had a military orientation. As a private college preparatory school for boys on Mission Ridge, Chattanooga, Tennessee, the high ethics, challenging academics, football, soccer, track and field, and glee club kept Jim happy, always being able to find something to do. He spent his high school summers working as a roustabout and roughneck in the South Texas oil fields.
After graduation from McCallie, Jim attended Rice University for undergraduate studies, receiving a B.A. degree in 1952 and a B.S. in chemical engineering in 1953. He threw the javelin for Rice. Following this, he worked as a research engineer in the production research laboratory, Fluid Mechanics Section, of Humble Oil and Refining Company during 1955 and 1956. He then attended graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, completing M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in chemical engineering in 1954 and 1960, respectively. Jim was among the first students to be supervised by Professor R. Byron Bird; Professor Bird set new directions for research and education in chemical engineering, and Jim’s subsequent work was greatly influenced by this more scientific approach to engineering. After the completion of his Ph.D., Jim and Professor Bird took a two-week canoe trip in the Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada, where Jim proudly displayed the Texas flag at their campsite.
Jim joined the faculty of The University of Texas at Austin in 1960 as an assistant professor of chemical engineering. He advanced through the academic ranks to become full professor in 1969 and Kenneth A. Kobe Professor of Chemical Engineering in 1974, a position he held until his retirement in January 2001. He taught a wide range of undergraduate and graduate courses, primarily in the area of thermodynamics, and supervised many graduate students, some of whom went on to their own academic careers, e.g., James Gentry (University of Maryland), William Marlow (Texas A&M University), Tate Tsang (University of Kentucky), and Dale Henneke (University of Waterloo in Canada). He served as graduate advisor in the Department of Chemical Engineering from 1977 to 1979.
While Jim was in Europe in 1963 on a post-doctoral fellowship in Brussels, he visited London, where he met Mary Lou Waghorn at a church service. They were married in London in 1964 and had two daughters, Ianthe and Alison. Carey Beth, the daughter of Ianthe and her husband, John Wooley, was the light of her grandpa’s latter years.
Jim had a wide range of research interests, including dispersion and growth of atmospheric particulate matter, atmospheric electricity, rarefied gas dynamics, statistical mechanics, aerosol chemistry and physics, formation and growth of ultrafine particles, nonlinear laser-particle interactions, laser interactions with materials, and microelectronics processing. The area of his research at The University of Texas at Austin that had the greatest impact involved various aspects of aerosols. His interest in this area evolved from his earliest scientific endeavors, but his work was accelerated by a growing awareness of the problems of urban air pollution, together with the obvious need to better understand the physics and chemistry of the behavior of small particles in the atmosphere to mitigate their detrimental environmental effects. His early work included developing an understanding, at the molecular level, of particle motion driven by thermal gradients and how particles interact, become charged, and grow.
Jim’s expertise in the fundamental physics of molecular and particle interactions evolved into studies of the collective behavior of small particles in the atmosphere that led to a deep understanding of origins and types of air pollution and laid foundations for strategies of pollution abatement. His work on aerosols was of significant interest to the U.S. Army, among other things for more effective camouflaging in the case of chemical warfare by smoke screening; this work also related to civilian issues like crop spraying and mosquito suppression. His subsequent work on the interaction of particles with lasers led to useful ways for measuring the properties of atmospheric aerosols and had significant military implications for reversing the hiding effect of aerosols by destroying them with lasers. His research received generous financial support from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army, and the Texas Advanced Technology Research Program.
Jim published over one hundred and fifty articles in refereed scientific/engineering journals. In 1970, Pergamon Press published the widely respected book, Dynamics of Aerocolloidal Systems, which Jim co-authored with his long-term collaborator George M. Hidy. He was the co-inventor on numerous U.S. and foreign patents relating to topics such as aerosol jet etching, photo catalysis of the oxidation of organic compounds, amorphous diamond, synthesis of nano-particles, etc. He received numerous forms of recognition for his research contributions, including a Certificate of Appreciation from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1980, a Distinguished Service Award from the U.S. Army in 1988, the Sinclair Award of the American Association for Aerosol Research in 1992, and the Billy and Claude Hocott Distinguished Centennial Engineering Research Award from The University of Texas at Austin. He served as co-editor of the series International Reviews in Aerosol Physics and Chemistry, as associate editor of the Journal of Environmental Science and Health (1978-90) and the Journal of Aerosol Science (1984-88), and as editorial board member for the Journal of Colloid and Interface Science (1965-69). Jim was a registered professional engineer in the State of Texas and was active in numerous professional societies, including the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the American Chemical Society.
A good sense of the impact of Jim’s research can be seen in a letter written in 1998 to the Hocott Award Committee by Edward W. Stuebing, Leader, U.S. Army Aerosol Sciences Team, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD:
Professor Brock has dedicated his life to research of the highest quality, and when I first contacted him to ask if he would help the Army, he replied that he felt he owed something to his country and would. Since then he has been an unflagging cornerstone of our aerosol research program. He has taken on project after project through thick years and thin with dedicated scientific service to his country… His dedication and many contributions to the Army aerosol research program are deemed so significant that in 1988 he was decorated with the CRDEC Distinguished Service Award, the only researcher in my program to have been so recognized over its twenty years of existence. Our Commanding General flew to Austin to present this award on your campus in the presence of the President of your university. Jim had many international connections. From 1962 to 1963, he was a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium, working under Dr. Ilya Prigogine, winner of the 1977 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and professor at The University of Texas at Austin. He was a visiting professor at the University of Paris Faculty of Science in 1973 and at the Tokyo Institute of Technology in 1988. In 1997, at the NATO Advanced Study Institute on Nanostructure Materials: Science & Technology in St. Petersburg, Russia, he spoke on “Nanoparticle Synthesis: A Key Process in the Future of Nanotechnology,” which was published in the volume recording that historic meeting. Jim deeply admired the life and work of the Russian scientist/engineer Nicolai A. Fuchs (1895-1982), a member of the Karpov Institute of Physical Chemistry in Moscow, who is widely known as one of the founders of the field of aerosol science. The Brocks cherished their exchange of Christmas cards with the Fuchs family in the USSR during those “Iron Curtain” years.
Jim’s professional colleagues will remember him as a quiet, but deep-thinking, scientist/engineer/educator with a great sense of quality, elegance, and an extraordinary level of personal and professional integrity. He had special affection for his students and their countries. His family remembers him as a stalwart, generous, and loving husband and father and a modest, private man. He was a well-respected member of his church. He had a special way with small children and animals and was a lover of the environment, wildlife, classical music, poetry, and history.
William Powers Jr., President
The University of Texas at Austin
Sue Alexander Greninger, Secretary
The General Faculty
This memorial resolution was prepared by a special committee consisting of Professors Donald R. Paul (chair), John G. Ekerdt, and Michael F. Becker.