Lewis Lecture


The Warren K. Lewis Lectureship was established in 1978 to recognize Professor Lewis' revolutionary impact on chemical engineering education. By developing the concept of unit operations, first proposed by A. D. Little and William Walker, he revolutionized the design of chemical engineering processes and equipment. Throughout his career, Professor Lewis was mindful of the needs of industrial practice; accordingly, the Lewis lecture features speakers from industry and academia.

The Lewis Legacy

Warren K. "Doc" Lewis came to MIT in 1901 as an early student of the new program in chemical engineering. He received his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from the University of Breslau, Germany in 1908. Doc joined MIT as an Assistant Professor in 1910, and was promoted to Professor in 1914. He was the first head of the newly formed Chemical Engineering department from 1920 to 1929. After this, he devoted himself to teaching, research, and consulting and remained an influential member of the Department until his death in 1975 at the age of 92. Doc Lewis was a superb educator. His text, Principles of Chemical Engineering, written with William Walker and William McAdams in 1923, first defined the discipline and provided the basis for quantitative calculations of unit operations. His lectures are legendary for their combination of beautifully organized material and Socratic exchanges with his students. As an inventor, he contributed to the fields of industrial stoichiometry and industrial chemistry with over 80 patents. He also pioneered the use of the fluidized bed, which led to catalytic cracking processes in refining. Doc's numerous honors and awards include the President's Medal of Science, the President's Medal of Merit, and the John Fritz Medal. He was honored by the AIChE with the establishment of the Warren K. Lewis Award, which recognizes outstanding educators in chemical engineering.

Past Lectures