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Department History

Chemical Engineering at The Ohio State University traces its roots back over 100 years.  Offered initially as a “B.S. in Chemistry from the College of Engineering,” the first degree was awarded to Samuel Vernon Peppel in 1899. 

Beginning with the 1902-1903 University Bulletin, The Outline of the Course in Chemical Engineering was listed for the first time. In 1904 the name of the degree changed to “Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering.” Its first two recipients were Arno Fieldner and Lewis Benjamin Case. The first M.Sc. was issued in 1910 to Orlando Sweeney, the first Ph.D.s in 1918 to Herbert Spencer Coith and James Howard Young. Helen S. Crooks was the first female baccalaureate (1923) and Yun Hao Feng was the first woman to receive a Masters (1928) and Ph.D. (1931).

From 1902 to 1924, chemical engineering was a division of the chemistry department, a common practice among universities at that time. Dr. James Withrow headed the division until 1924 when it became the Department of Chemical Engineering; he was department chair until 1948. Dr. Withrow was succeeded by Joe Koffolt (1948), Al Syverson (1968), Ed Haerring (1976), Jacques Zakin (1977), L.S. Fan (1994), Stuart Cooper (2004) and Andre Palmer (2014). In 1925, the degree program was one of the first 10 to be accredited by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

Since its inception, Ohio State's department of chemical engineering has occupied a number of facilities, the first of which burned down shortly after the creation of the department. Later homes included “Chemistry Building #3” (later renamed Derby Hall), and the saw-tooth-roofed, industrial section (now demolished) of MacPherson Hall (in 1925). The first building constructed exclusively for use by chemical engineering (in 1959) was later renamed Koffolt Laboratories to honor Dr. Joseph H. Koffolt, the department chair from 1948-1968.

In Winter 2015, the current facility at 151 W. Woodruff Avenue opened, thanks to alumnus William G. Lowrie and hundreds of loyal alumni.

The facility still carries the name "Koffolt Laboratories" in honor of Joe Koffolt. Koffolt, an alumnus who served as department chairman from 1948-68, was a beloved father figure who was fiercely devoted to all of his students, whom he referred to as "jewels." When he died in 1977, he left behind a vast legacy: a vanguard of over 1,400 of "Joe's Jewels" went on to transform the problems of society into solutions for the betterment of mankind -- a tradition our students carry on today.

While the new building still carries the name Koffolt Laboratories, in recognition of Mr. Lowrie's extraordinary dedication to Ohio State Chemical Engineering, the department itself was named the William G. Lowrie Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, becoming the first named department at Ohio State.