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Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

In Memoriam: Dr. Thomas J. Hanratty, 1926-2016

Thomas J. Hanratty, a pioneer in fluid dynamics, passed away on Wednesday, August 24, 2016, in Urbana. Dr. Hanratty was a longtime chemical engineering professor who found joy in both research and teaching. He was a leader in establishing multiphase flow as a new academic discipline by relating macroscopic behavior to small-scale interactions.

Dr. Thomas J. Hanratty
Dr. Thomas J. Hanratty

He was a respected and integral part of the department, joining as an assistant professor in 1953 and formally retiring in 1997. As emeritus professor, he continued an active research program and interaction with colleagues culminating in over 60 years of active engagement with the Chemical Engineering department. During his career at Illinois, Dr. Hanratty worked with nearly 80 Ph.D. students and was admired by students for his dedication to helping them succeed. His colleagues on the faculty also praised him for his efforts to help their professional development at different stages throughout their careers.

A devoted and inspiring teacher, Professor Hanratty would always find time for students in the laboratory and classroom. He believed that the opportunity for students to present their work at technical conferences and to interact with researchers at other institutions was a major stimulus in their professional development. Upon his retirement from the university, Professor Hanratty and friends and former students worked to create a new fund (the Hanratty Professional Development Fund) to provide financial support for graduate students to attend national conferences in their discipline. Hanratty’s family has requested that memorials be made to that fund.

Dr. Hanratty with graduate student Lawrence Williams in the 1980s.
Dr. Hanratty with graduate student Lawrence Williams in the 1980s.

In a 2009 compendium on his research, Dr. Hanratty said his work was motivated by a desire to  improve fundamental understanding of basic problems in fluid dynamics.

He embraced new techniques to expand the scope of his research, with supercomputers to do direct numerical simulations of turbulent fields and with optical techniques, which provided measurements of velocity flows without interfering with the flow. His work was the basis for the design of the Alaska pipeline, among many other applications.

Born in Philadelphia in 1926, he received a bachelor’s degree from Villanova University in 1947. He held research positions at Fischer and Porter Company in Pennsylvania and Battelle Memorial Institute in Ohio. While at Battelle, he took night courses at The Ohio State University, earning a master’s degree from there in 1950. He then entered the Ph.D. program at Princeton University, working in reactor design and fluidized beds.

Dr. Hanratty was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1974 for his contributions in the analysis and design of turbulent, gas-liquid, and solid-liquid flow systems. In 1997, he was named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1999 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Throughout his career, Dr. Hanratty received numerous awards and recognitions. AIChE honored him with the Ernest Thiele Award in 1986, the Professional Progress Award in 1967, the Walker Award in 1961, and the Colburn Award in 1957. He was the first winner of the Multiphase Flow International Prize in 1998. He also received the Curtis McGraw Research Award (1963) and the Senior Research Award (1979) from the American Association for Engineering Education. In addition, Hanratty served as Associate Editor of the International Journal of Multiphase Flows and he authored the textbook, Physics of Gas-Liquid Flows, published by Cambridge University Press in 2013.

At Illinois, he was named a University Scholar and he was the first faculty member to hold the James W. Westwater professorship.

Dr. Hanratty received honorary degrees from Villanova University and the Institut National Polytechnique de Toulouse and the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award from The Ohio State University.
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Visitation will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday, August 31, at Owens Funeral Home, 101 N. Elm St., Champaign. Funeral Mass will be at 10 a.m. Thursday, September 1, 2016 at Holy Cross Catholic Church, 405 W. Clark St., Champaign. Burial will follow at Woodlawn Cemetery in Urbana.

Memorials may be made to the Hanratty Professional Development Fund at the University of Illinois Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, 114 Roger Adams Laboratory, MC 712, 600 South Mathews Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801, or online.

His obituary may be viewed on the funeral home’s website.