BSL II! Second edition of Transport Phenomena prepares students for 21st century
In all likelihood, Bob Bird, Warren Stewart and Ed Lightfoot are the only chemical engineers who can lay claim to the distinction of being known worldwide simply by their last initials, thanks to the 1960 publication of their textbook, Transport Phenomena (a.k.a. BSL).
Finally freed by retirement of some of their professional responsibilities, the three have now published the second volume of the landmark text. With new or revised discussions of such topics as two-phase systems, angular momentum, Taylor dispersion and turbulence, the revision promises to help prepare chemical engineering students well into the 21st century.
The original version of BSL remained in print continuously for 41 years, saw 62 printings, was translated into Russian, Chinese, Italian, Spanish and Czech, and sold more than 200,000 copies, a number roughly equivalent to the number of BS degrees awarded in chemical engineering over the same period.
With typical modesty, Ed attributes the book's longevity, at least in part, to the pressures on faculty today to produce research results. "Because the system is pushing today's professionals so hard, the book is still around," he says. It is no doubt true that Ed, Warren and Bob would have moved edition one to the history shelves sooner if they had had more time to devote to its successor, but to truly appreciate the book's staying power, one must consider the unprecedented foresight that went into its planning, and the radical transformation it engendered in chemical engineering education.
In 1957, following "numerous departmental meetings," the ChemE department voted narrowly to approve a new course on transport phenomena, to be developed by Bob, Warren and Ed.
In 1958, Bob wrote an article for Recent Advances in the Engineering Sciences in which he spelled out the thinking that went into the new course. In various branches of engineering, not just chemical engineering, he argued, "the theoretical aspects of the field are so well developed that to some extent at least the courses should be organized by theory," rather than by application, as was the tradition.
"It is the author's feeling that such a reorganization of subject material can result in greater efficiency of teaching, more thorough coverage of basic principles, and better understanding about the interrelations of several fields of engineering physics." In chemical engineering curricula at the time, information on momentum, energy and mass transfer was organized within a course on unit operations in connection with specific applications such as crystallization, distillation or extraction.
As Bob, Warren and Ed would later write, bringing the three subjects together is advantageous for several reasons: "(1) in nature, in biological systems, and in the chemical industry, the three phenomena often occur simultaneously; (2) the mathematical descriptions of the three phenomena are related closely and hence considerable use may be made of analogies among the various phenomena; (3) there are also important differences among the three fields, and these can be emphasized when the subject material is juxtaposed."
Imagine the audacity of three young faculty members arguing in favor of a fundamental reorganization of the chemical engineering curriculum, then imagine a similar scenario playing out in departments across the country and around the world as one department after another moved to adopt the new approach, and you can begin to understand the impact they had in chemical engineering education. Each bringing his unique perspective to bear, and with characteristic thoroughness, Bob, Warren and Ed developed their notes for the new course into a textbook that only they could dethrone 41 years later!
The Department of Chemical Engineering inaugurated the BSL Lecture this fall to honor the achievements of these three outstanding chemical engineers.
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Date last modified: Friday, 09-Nov-2001 11:00:00 CST
Date created: 08-Nov-2001 17:01:00