In 1824, French physicist Sadi Carnot, in his “On the Motive Power of Fire”, was the first to study the thermodynamics of combustion reactions in steam engines. In the 1850s, German physicist Rudolf Clausius began to apply the principles developed by Carnot to chemicals systems at the atomic to molecular scale. During the years 1873 to 1876 at Yale University, American mathematical physicist Josiah Willard Gibbs, the first to be awarded a Ph.D. in engineering in the U.S., in a series of three papers, developed a mathematicalbased, graphical methodology, for the study of chemical systems using the thermodynamics of Clausius. In 1882, German physicist Hermann von Helmholtz, published a founding thermodynamics paper, similar to Gibbs, but with more of an electro-chemical basis, in which he showed that measure of chemical affinity, i.e. the “force” of chemical reactions, is determined by the measure of the free energy of the reaction process. Following these early developments, the new science of chemical engineering began to develop. The following timeline shows some of the key
steps in the development of the science of chemical engineering :
- 1805 – John Dalton published Atomic Weights, allowing chemical equations to be balanced and the basis for chemical engineering mass balances.
- 1882 – a course in “Chemical Technology” is offered at University College London
- 1883 – Osborne Reynolds defines the dimensionless group for fluid flow, leading to practical scale-up and understanding of flow, heat and mass transfer
- 1885 – Henry Edward Armstrong offers a course in “chemical engineering” at Central College (later Imperial College), London.
- 1888 – There is a Department of Chemical Engineering at Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College offering day and evening classes.
- 1888 – Lewis M. Norton starts a new curriculum at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): Course X, Chemical Engineering
- 1889 – Rose Polytechnic Institute awards the first bachelor‟s of science in chemical engineering in the US.
- 1891 – MIT awards a bachelor‟s of science in chemical engineering to William Page Bryant and six other candidates.
- 1892 – A bachelor‟s program in chemical engineering is established at the University of Pennsylvania.
- 1901 – George E. Davis produces the Handbook of Chemical Engineering
- 1905 – the University of Wisconsin awards the first Ph.D. in chemical engineering to Oliver Patterson Watts.
- 1908 – the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) is founded.
- 1922 – the UK Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) is founded.
- 1942 – Hilda Derrick, first female student member of the IChemE.