University of Kentucky


Hall of Distinguished Alumni

William Henry McAdams

Born in Cynthiana, Ky., on March 15, 1892. Educator. Scientist. University of Kentucky, B.S. in Industrial Chemistry, 1913; M.S., 1914; Sc. D. , 1945. Died, May 2, 1975.

Although he was born on his grandfather's horse farm near Cynthiana, he moved with his family as an infant to Lexington and has always been identified with the city.

For ten years following graduation from the University in 1913 with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Chemistry degree and in 1914 with a Master of Science degree, he worked with the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company and other firms as a chemical engineer. He developed, with two others, a gas that was to be used as a defensive measure during World War I. He also developed the flutter valve used on gas masks.

He was professor of chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1919 until his retirement in 1959. He also served as a lecturer in chemistry at Harvard University, 1925-53.

He pursued doctoral studies at M.I.T., but accepted only one degree there, the Master of Science in Chemical Engineering, in 1917.

Author of more than 40 books and technical articles in the field of chemistry and chemical engineering, he became nationally recognized as an authority on heat transfer, distillation and the flow of viscous liquids. His book, "Heat Transmission," was widely used as a textbook.,

He was a member of the National Research Council; the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics; American Chemical Society; American Society of Mechanical Engineers. As a student at the University, he was named to Phi Beta Kappa, and was a member of Kappa Sigma and S.U.A.A.

He was given a number of awards and commendations for his contributions, both from government and industry. The University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Science degree in 1945. He was elected in 1949 to the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and received the Presidential Certificate of Merit and the William H. Walker Award. His work with the Manhattan Project and original contributions to the development of the atomic submarine and the development of the jet airplane were especially noted. He also was commended by the French Government.

Following his retirement from M.I.T., he served as a consultant to the DuPont Company and a number of other institutions.

William Henry McAdams was named to the Hall of Distinguished Alumni in February 1965.

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