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BY MERTON C. FLEMINGS
NICHOLAS J. GRANT, a leader in high-temperature metallurgy and former professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), died May 1, 2004, at the age of 88.
Professor Grant, known to all as Nick, was born Nicholas John Dwaresky in South River, New Jersey, on October 21, 1915, the bilingual son of Russian immigrants. He was the youngest of four brothers, nicknamed “The Little Professor” even as a boy. When his brothers changed the family name to Grant (they liked the American sound of Ulysses S. Grant) he complained that they might at least have translated it to “Steward,” but by then it was too late.
Through the determined mentoring of his high school science teacher, who was also his football coach, Nick went to Carnegie Tech in 1935 on a football scholarship. He received his bachelor of science degree there in 1938 and then went on to MIT, where he earned his ScD in metallurgy in 1944. He remained at MIT for the remainder of his career, becoming an instructor immediately upon graduation and then rising through the academic ranks to full professor in 1956.
Professor Grant’s research career began during World War II, with research on the casing for the atomic bomb. Thereafter he focused mainly on high-temperature metallurgy, following a path from steelmaking to alloy and process development for high-temperature alloys to rapid solidification processing. He published more than 500 papers and was granted more than 30 US patents.
He was a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a fellow of the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and of the American Society of Metals. Other honors included the J. Wallenberg Award of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences in 1978.
His government service was wide ranging. He served on NASA’s Advisory Committee on Materials and Structures (1958–1966), including a period as chairman, and Research Advisory Committee (1968–1974). He also served on numerous other government and institutional advisory committees, in the Office of Naval Research (ONR), Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), Ordnance Division of the US Army, Department of Commerce, NATO, and National Research Council (NRC). He was a busy consultant and visited the USSR frequently, starting in the late 1940s. MIT’s first Russian graduate student was in Nick Grant’s lab.
Nick was above all a teacher who was simultaneously demanding, generous, and endlessly supportive. And each graduate student could count on being beaten by Nick at handball. He loved sports with a passionate self-discipline, and he held the Carnegie Tech javelin record for decades. He skated, skied, swam, and jogged until he was past 80. An avid outdoorsman, he loved fishing, camping, and gardening.
Professor Grant was married twice. His first wife, Anne Phillips, died in 1957, and in 1963 he married the writer Susan Cooper. He had five children, four of whom survived him, as did eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.