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Heroes of Chemical Engineering (Part 2): Rodolphe L. Motard

This month on Heroes of Chemical Engineering we feature Rodolphe L. Motard (1925 - 2011), one of the pioneers of computer aided process simulation. Rodolphe L. Motard and Dr. Ernest Henley are the fathers of one of the first process analysis tools; CHESS, introduced in 1968. CHESS later became the foundation of the modern process simulation software CHEMCAD.

Early Career

Motard earned his bachelor’s degree of Chemical Engineering at Queen’s University in Canada (1947). He later gained a master’s degree and doctorate (1948, 1952) on the subject at Carnegie Mellon University. He started his first job with Shell Oil Co. in 1951; studying the catalytic cracking of petroleum and helping the design of major commercial refineries.

Chemical Engineering goes digital

Motard was first introduced to digital computers in 1956 at the dawn of the computer age. Shortly he became a leader in the application of computers to chemical process design. In 1957 he joined the University of Houston, both at the Department of Chemical Engineering and the university’s computer center. There, he initiated research in computer applications, including process simulation, process dynamics, modeling and process optimization.

Computer Aided Chemical Engineering
Chemical engineering goes digital

From CHESS to the modern CHEMCAD

At the University of Houston he founded the process simulation laboratory and directed the systems engineering program. Motard’s computer program CHESS (Chemical Engineering Simulation System) was being used worldwide to teach chemical engineering design. The program was the basis for a major commercial package in the field of process analysis. The program was adapted to PC in 1985, and was renamed CHEMCAD. Three years later Chemstations Inc. was founded to continuously develop the program. The program has expanded significantly over the years, up to the most recent version CHEMCAD 6.5.

AIChE Fellow and Cartoon inspiration

In June 1992, Motard was named a fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

Although he had many peer-reviewed publications, he was particularly was proud of a cartoon he had come up with. The cartoon describes a new mathematical technique he had devised to detect corrosion. Drawn by Larry Gonick, the two-page-cartoon appeared in the magazine Discover in April 1996.

Computer Aided Chemical Engineering

Motard was a charter founder of the CACHE Corporation, a nonprofit association, dedicated to the promotion of digital computation in chemical engineering education. Throughout his teaching career, at the University of Houston and later at the Washington University in St. Louis, he expressed particular interest in the utilization and development of computer applications in the education of young chemical engineers.

In this regard, we would like to think, that he would have endorsed the Process Simulation Cup, a tool aiming to engage chemical engineering students in process simulation and help them prepare for the future of chemical engineering.

Find our previous Heroes of Chemical Engineering article about Johann Rudolf Glauber here and be sure to be back for the next one!

16 September 2015