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Department of Chemical Engineering records

 Record Group
Identifier: RG-06-060

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The records of the Department of Chemical Engineering span the years 1939 to 1960 and 1982 to 1984. The record group is divided into two series. Series 1, Student Records, 1939-1960, is further subdivided into four subseries for Undergraduate Students, Graduate Students, Special and Non-Degree Students, and Other Student Records. Types of records in this series include applications for admission, transcripts, letters of reference and correspondence. Series 2, Grants, 1982-1984, consists of grant proposals, renewals and related documentation. There are no records documenting the day-to-day operation of the department.


  • Creation: 1939-1984


Use Restrictions

Education records in series 1, as defined by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, are restricted. For details, see Regulations Governing Access to Restricted Access, at the front of each binder.


In the Annual Report of the School of Engineering for 1915, professors of the three existing departments of engineering, Charles J. Tilden, Carl C. Thomas, and John B. Whitehead, reported the "need for an additional branch, Chemical Engineering." The 1917 Annual Report states that, in addition to the three Engineering Departments, "instruction will be given in ... Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry." Professors Joseph E. Gilpin and Joseph C. W. Frazier, of the Department of Chemistry, taught these first courses in "applied science in chemistry." In 1920, the degree of Bachelor of Science in Chemistry was conferred by the Department of Engineering, although the courses were listed under the School of Arts and Sciences.

In 1922, courses in Gas Engineering were given through the Departments of Chemistry and Mechanical Engineering. The following year saw the establishment of a Department of Gas Engineering. The practice of conducting courses in chemistry through the School of Engineering was temporarily discontinued in October 1932, with the statement that "Students desiring combined courses in Chemistry and Engineering ... will hereafter register in the College of Arts and Sciences." Because current students were permitted to continue their course to completion, the degree of Bachelor of Science in Chemistry was conferred by the Engineering School until 1935.

In 1937, the University announced its intention to merge the Gas Engineering Department with a new program in Chemical Engineering. The new department, known as Chemical and Gas Engineering, offered a curriculum leading to the degree of Bachelor of Engineering. By 1940, gas engineering, which earlier had thrived under grants from the Southern Gas Association, was abolished as a separate, defined curriculum. Changing technology led to the de- emphasizing of gas engineering in favor of the broader-based chemical engineering once the grants supporting gas engineering were discontinued. Also in 1940, the department received accreditation from the Engineering Committee for Professional Development and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

At the time of its founding, the faculty of the Department of Chemical and Gas Engineering consisted of Lloyd Logan, Paul H. Emmett, Ralph K. Witt and Charles F. Bonilla; the latter three men were named to their positions in 1937, while Logan and Wilbert J. Huff (who left the University in 1936) had worked under the old Gas Engineering department. Emmett became Associate Editor of the Journal of Physical Chemistry, while Witt did pioneering research in the use of plastics in everyday living, and Huff was named chairman of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

In 1942, Bonilla served as chemical engineer to the United States Industrial Mission to Brazil, and as a member of the Technical Mission of the Board of Economic Warfare in Cuba. In addition, he worked with the Rubber Reserve Company on a war research project. He continued, in later years, as a consultant to the Foreign Economic Administration, studying gas distribution in public housing projects, and at the same time recommending desirable safety measures for the Housing Authority of Baltimore City. In 1944, he was a Chemical Engineering Counselor in the Chinese Technical Orientation Program. On the lighter side, he also published such articles as "Dehydration of Blackstrap Molasses." In 1944, Bonilla was appointed acting chairman of the department.

During the Second World War, the department collaborated with the Navy's Bureau of Ships, and the Army's Bureau of Ordnance and Aberdeen Proving Ground/Edgewood Arsenal on the subject of chemical warfare.

In 1949, Frederick C. Hettinger was named visiting professor, but soon became acting chair as Bonilla left for Colombia in that year. In 1950, he became chair and also began service on the Maryland State Water Pollution Control Commission. Hettinger later assumed the positions of Senior Engineering Supervisor for the Baltimore City Health Department and consultant to the State Board of Health in the field of Air Pollution, before retiring in 1956. Throughout his career at Hopkins, Hettinger remained at the rank of visiting professor.

In 1953, Harold E. Hoelscher, who succeeded Hettinger as chair in 1956, came to Hopkins from the University of Cincinnati. Like most of the faculty, he served as a consultant to private companies, public organizations, and the military. In 1957, Hoelscher developed a method whereby a flat circular flame could be produced in midair, without contact with any surface, thus simplifying the study of controlled combustion and jet engine fuels. In 1960, Hoelscher went to India on a UNESCO assignment, helping to develop graduate programs in engineering, physical chemistry, and mathematics at the University of Madras. In 1965, Hoelscher left Hopkins to become Dean of the School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. He was succeeded as chair by Jerome Gavis, who had been appointed to the department in 1956.

In 1966, Hopkins merged the Faculty of Philosophy and the Faculty of Engineering, resulting in the immediate suspension of undergraduate instruction in chemical engineering. In the spring of 1968, the University announced plans to "dissolve the Chemical Engineering Department ... by a series of faculty appointments in other departments in areas of Chemical Engineering Science." This prompted resignations from three of the five members of the department: George C. Frazier, Jr., Robert L. Laurence and John C. Friedly. Gavis transferred to the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering, and Jack Elzinga transferred to the Department of Engineering Science. In the 1970s, graduate students interested in chemical engineering were referred to the Department of Mechanics, and undergraduates were encouraged to build a program of study within the Department of Chemistry, in conjunction with the departments of Mechanics, Biomedical Engineering, or Geography and Environmental Engineering.

The Department of Chemical Engineering was re-born with the emergence of the G.W.C. Whiting School of Engineering in 1979, chaired by William H. Schwarz, formerly of the Department of Mechanics and Materials Science, with Stanley Corrsin, Joseph Katz and Marc Donohue as departmental faculty. The department's strengths were in the areas of fluid mechanics, nucleation, thermodynamics and biotechnology. By 1988, biochemical engineering had become a major emphasis, building on the University's reputation in biochemistry and medicine. Joseph Katz served as chair from 1981 to 1985, after which he was succeeded by Marc Donohue.

Annual Reports of the President. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1915-1967.
Johns Hopkins University Circular. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1915-1988.
Yoe, Mary Ruth. Hopkins: Engineering at the University. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, [1989].


3.23 Cubic Feet (8 letter size document boxes, 1 letter half-size document box)

Language of Materials



These records were transferred by Jean McFeely, Administrative Secretary of the Department of Chemical Engineering.

Accession Number

87.11, 88.23

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Aravinda Pillalamarri.

Department of Chemical Engineering records
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA