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Web Date: February 19, 2009

Elmer Gaden Garners Top Engineering Prize

Chemical engineer made possible the large-scale manufacture of antibiotics
Department: ACS News
Credit: Courtesy of the National Academy of Engineering
Credit: Courtesy of the National Academy of Engineering

Elmer L. Gaden Jr., a professor emeritus of chemical engineering at the University of Virginia, was awarded the 2009 Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize during a gala celebration in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday night.

The Russ award honors "a bioengineering achievement that is of critical importance, advances science and engineering, and improves the human condition." The prize is funded by Ohio University and administered by the National Academy of Engineering. It ??includes a $500,000 cash award and a gold medallion.

Gaden's research enabled the large-scale manufacture of antibiotics, such as penicillin. C&EN featured Gaden on the cover of its May 31, 1971, issue, calling him the "Father of biochemical engineering," a reference that is still being used today.

"Elmer Gaden helped lay the foundation for modern biotechnology, from the production of antibiotics to the manufacture of therapeutic proteins," says Douglas S. Clark, a former student of Gaden's and now a professor of chemical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. "Many of the wonder drugs we now take for granted would not be readily available if not for the work of Elmer Gaden."

Gaden has taught at Columbia University, the University of Vermont, and the University of Virginia. In addition, he founded the journal Biotechnology and Bioengineering, for which he served as editor for 25 years.??

But Gaden also has a life outside of his research. "Something many people don't know about Elmer is that he is a noted historian, which is how I first met him as a student in a military history class he co-taught at the University of Vermont," says Clark, who is the current editor-in-chief of Biotechnology and Bioengineering. "His personal charm and love of history were infectious, and not once did he even hint that he was a historical figure himself."

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
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