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S. George Bankoff, Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering, Dies

S. George Bankoff, professor emeritus of chemical engineering, passed away Thursday, July 14. He was 89.

Bankoff, whose research into the fundamentals of heat transfer and two phase flow won him recognition in chemical and nuclear engineering, had a long career at Northwestern that began in 1959 and lasted until long after he became professor emeritus in 1992.

He was a member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and won numerous awards, including the Ernest W. Thiele, Robert E. Wilson, Donald Q. Kern, and Heat Transfer and Energy Division awards from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. His citation for election to NAE reads: “For contributions to the field of two-phase flow and heat transfer and its application to nuclear-reactor thermohydraulics.”

“George Bankoff brought solidity and balance to chemical engineering at Northwestern,” said Julio Ottino, dean of the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. “He brought balance between theory and applications, excelling in both, while at the same time linking us with mechanical engineering and applied mathematics.”

Bankoff received his BS and MS in mineral dressing from Columbia University in 1940 and 1941. He worked briefly for DuPont before becoming a subleader in the Manhattan Project, where he worked on pile heat transfer and fluid flow. He eventually returned to DuPont, where his work on plastics made commercial production of Teflon feasible at the time.

He began his academic career at Rose Polytechnic Institute (now Rose-Hulman) as an assistant professor while he pursued his PhD at Purdue University, which he received in 1951. He became department chair at Rose before spending a year at Caltech and then becoming a faculty member at Northwestern.

His work has covered a wide variety of topics in multiphase heat transfer and fluid mechanics, many of which are connected with nuclear reactor safety, including bubble nucleation and growth in boiling, heat conduction and diffusion with phase changes, vapor explosions, and stability of thin liquid films under heating. He published more than 200 papers and served as thesis adviser to more than 70 graduate students.

“George recognized the urgent need for alternative energy sources and devoted his career to making nuclear energy safe and efficient,” said David Kelso, clinical professor of biomedical engineering and a former Bankoff PhD student. “He was also a terrific mentor, and understood how his engineering science could be applied to many different fields, which is reflected in the diverse careers of his students.”

Funeral services will be held Sunday, July 17, at 11 a.m. at the Piser Funeral home, 9200 N. Skokie Blvd, Skokie, IL. Memorials can be sent to Learn Charter School, 1132 S. Homan, Chicago, IL 60624 or AIPAC, 251 H. St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20001.