In memory of Professor Emeritus Bob Brodkey

Carolyn Patch and Bob Brodkey, Spring 2022
​​​​Bob Brodkey and spouse Carolyn Patch, Spring 2022
Bob Brodkey
Robert S. Brodkey, 1928-2022

Professor Emeritus Robert S. Brodkey, who first joined the William G. Lowrie Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in 1957, passed away on June 18, 2022 at the age of 93.

Revered by his colleagues, he was seen to be exceptionally competent, fair, enthusiastic; possessing high character and a uniquely congenial and positive demeanor that brought a smile to the face of anyone with whom he interacted. An unforgettable character, brilliant scientist, and devoted teacher, his love of art and sense of humor added to his already colorful personality.

Students admired his humor, wisdom and spirit for his craft and enjoyed his down-to-earth, passionate, warm and friendly nature. He was a truly outstanding professor who was both endearing and entertaining while being effective and thorough. "Once you got through his class, you were a chemical engineer," one alumnus wrote. "He enriched the lives of so many of us ChemE's," wrote another. "Truly an icon with tremendous impact," wrote an alumna.

"He left his mark on our profession indelibly, but he also touched the lives of many of us in a very profound way," said Department Chair Umit S. Ozkan, who has known Professor Brodkey throughout her career at Ohio State. "He will never be forgotten."

Professor Brodkey touched the lives of countless students, teaching momentum transfer to thousands of undergraduate students, and fluid mechanics to hundreds of graduate students. He served as advisor to nearly 45 Ph.D. students and over 40 M.S. students. In 2014, the first graduate-level scholarship ever created in the department was established in his honor.

Dr. Brodkey was one of the people who made the Ohio State Chem E Dept seem like you were attending a small private school rather than a large public university. He knew and greeted the students, both graduate and undergraduate. He was a giant in the profession. Stephen Grant, ’76 BS,  Sr. Attorney, Standley Law Group LLP

brodkey and tom koffolt
Prof. Brodkey and Tom Koffolt

This is truly the end of an era for Koffolt Laboratories. Bob Brodkey was the last faculty member to personally know and work for Joe Koffolt, who had been chair during Bob's early career. Professor Brodkey had an office in three buildings used by Chemical Engineering – McPherson, the first Koffolt Laboratories and the current building. He was present at the 1959 groundbreaking for the first Koffolt Laboratories, as well as the 2012 groundbreaking for the current building. 

During the department's Centennial Celebration in 2003, Professor Brodkey narrated a video that provided an overview of the department's history.


Born in Los Angeles, California in 1928, Bob Brodkey obtained an associate of arts degree in chemistry from San Francisco City College in 1948 and graduated with highest honors from the University of California-Berkeley in 1950 with a BS/MS degree in chemical engineering. He earned his doctor of philosophy in chemical engineering (Gulf Oil fellow) from the University of Wisconsin in 1952.

Bob Brodkey at desk, 1950s
Prof. Brodkey, circa 1960s

In his early career, Dr. Brodkey was a research chemical engineer at E.I. Du Pont de Nemours and Co., where he investigated the nature of drying synthetic polymers and pilot plant production, and at Esso Research and Engineering Co. and Esso Standard Oil Co., where he worked on the development and design of modifications for a synthetic lubricating oil additives plant. He obtained ten patents, five each for chemical synthesis and chemical process.

After joining Ohio State Chemical Engineering in the fall of 1957, he became an associate professor in 1960, a full professor in 1964, and professor emeritus in 1992. In 2014, he and long-time colleague Jack Zakin (1927-2018) were welcomed into the inaugural class of The Ohio State University’s Emeritus Academy, which represents just three percent of the total number of emeritus professors at Ohio State.

Jack and Bob were special friends, whose typical greetings consisted of "Jackie Baby!" and "Bobby Baby!"

Bob Brodkey and Jack Zakin, 2014
Profs. Brodkey and Zakin, 2014 Ohio State Emeritus Academy inductees


Professor Brodkey’s outstanding accomplishments in engineering research, particularly in the specialized areas of fluid mechanics/fundamental turbulent fluid flow, mixing, rheology, and two phase flow, are well known.

He is best known for his work in the field of coherent structures in turbulent shear flows. His early work (1969) on flow visualization with his student Corino is a classic paper which is repeatedly cited. Few contemporary papers on turbulence research fail to cite this landmark contribution on coherent structures, and the descriptive notation now commonly used when referencing turbulence (ejections, sweeps, etc.) was developed by him. The work emphasized visual techniques and developed ingenious multi-dimensional visualization methods, providing one of the first insights into the structure of turbulence that added much to our understanding of the structure of turbulence and the connection to events of the flow. Dr. Brodkey and his co-workers also introduced the method of quadrant splitting of turbulence signals, which became a major means of analysis for the study of turbulence. His work extended to studies of turbulent motion, mixing, kinetics and reactor design where he measured turbulence and mixing in the same flow field and demonstrated that mixing could be predicted from the turbulence.

Another significant area of research were his rheology studies, which ranged from the time-dependent nature of viscoelastic concentrated polymer solutions to concentrated slurries. His skills in adapting commercial equipment to specialized needs were adopted by other investigators. He also developed a kinetic elastic model to describe the rheological character of complex fluids.

Brodkey teaching
Prof. Brodkey taught thousands of students


Professor Brodkey is the author of three books and 138 research papers, including works on fundamental turbulent fluid flow (~55 publications), mixing (~25 publications), rheology (~15 publications) and two-phase flow (~10 publications). Some 30 additional publications on a variety of fields have appeared in the literature.

He is well known for his longstanding graduate text, The Phenomena of Fluid Motions (1967; 1984 4th printing; Addison-Wesley Pub. Co.). The undergraduate text, Transport Phenomena: A Unified Approach, with Dr. Harry C. Hershey, was published in 1988 by McGraw-Hill as part of their prestigious Chemical Engineering Series. He is also the editor and author of Chapter 2 in Turbulence in Mixing Operations: Theory and Application to Mixing and Reaction (1975, Academic Press). The text was translated into a two-volume Greek edition. In 2012 he completed a manuscript fifteen years in the making that tests the accuracy of computer simulations.


Dr. Brodkey held numerous national and regional committee posts in technical societies, including the American Chemical Society, AIChE, Phi Lambda Upsilon, and Alpha Chi Sigma. He served on the US National Committee-Theoretical and Applied Mechanics (National Research Council).

He served as vice-chair and treasurer of the US National Committee-Theoretical and Applied Mechanics (1995-1998). He was the AIChE representative to the committee (1987-1995).  He chaired the Scientific Committee of the XI-U.S. National Congress on Theoretical and Applied Mechanics that was held in May of 1990.  He was a member of the ABET/AIChE Chemical Engineering Visiting Accreditation Panel and of the AIChE Fluid Mechanics Program Committee and the Mixing Area Committee.  He was on the organizing committees for the Symposium on Turbulence, Rolla and the Beer Sheva Seminar on Magnetohydrodynamics and Turbulence (Israel). 

He was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the American Physical Society, the American Institute of Chemists, the American Academy of Mechanics; and a member of the American Chemical Society, Society of Engineering Science, Society of Rheology, Sigma Xi, Phi Lambda Upsilon, Alpha Gamma Sigma, and Phi Beta Delta.

He was a Senior NATO Fellow (1972), an Alexander Humboldt Senior US Scientist (1975) and a Visiting Professor of the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (1978) and received the Senior Research Award and the Chemical Engineering Lectureship Award from the American Society of Engineering Education (1985, 1986). In 1970 he won the Outstanding Paper of the Year Award from the Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering. In 1994 he held the W.W. Clyde Chair of Engineering at the University of Utah and received the 1994 North American Mixing Forum’s award for Outstanding Research.

Ohio State honors include The Ohio State University Distinguished Senior Research Award (1983) and the College of Engineering Senior Research Award (1983 and 1986).

At the November 15, 2022 AIChE Annual Meeting, members of the professional community joined Ohio State in honoring Dr. Brodkey with two special plenary sessions (322 and 399). The sessions included sixteen invited talks on Turbulence and Mixing.

In the latter part of Dr. Brodkey’s career, several symposiums were held in his honor. In recognition of his 65th birthday, two sessions were held in his honor at the San Francisco annual AIChE meeting. Another session on turbulence was held in his honor on his 70th birthday at the 1998 annual AIChE meeting. In 2002, a symposium on Turbulence in Chemical Processing was held at UNCTAM-14, Blacksburg, VA in his honor. In 2013, the paper “Homage to Bob Brodkey at 85: ejections, sweeps and the genesis and extensions of quadrant analysis,” (DFD13-2013-020001) was presented by James Wallace at the DFD13 Meeting of The American Physical Society.

Category: Faculty