Memorial Tributes: Volume 27
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  • RICHARD J. FRUEHAN (1942-2022)



    RICHARD JAMES FRUEHAN, U.S. Steel Professor Emeritus in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), was a chemical metallurgist whose contributions to iron and steelmaking technology shaped the modern practices used to produce and refine iron and steel. His research focused on gaining a fundamental understanding of the phenomena that control the iron and steelmaking process. His ability to design experimental techniques to enable thermodynamic measurements in liquid metals at temperatures up to 1,650°C and to apply such fundamental knowledge to solve the practical challenges in iron and steelmaking ensured that his work was applied in all steel production facilities worldwide. He died on July 3, 2022, at age 80.

    Known to his friends as Dick but to his family as “Puggie,” he was regarded around the world as the leading chemical metallurgist of his time. In addition to his scientific and engineering accomplishments, he founded and was the director of the Center for Iron and Steelmaking Research at CMU, a National Science Foundation-funded Industry University Cooperative Research Center supported by a large group of international and U.S. steel companies. He traveled the world to lecture and give short courses on the application of thermodynamics and kinetics to steelmaking problems and served on numerous national and international groups attempting to solve critical industry problems such as the reduction of carbon dioxide, the improvement of energy efficiency, and the development of new ironmaking processes. Although he won almost every award possible for a chemical metallurgist, some more than once, induction into the National Academy of Engineering was for him the highlight of his career, an accolade he treasured more than any other.

    Dick was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Feb. 22, 1942. His parents were Mortimore Leroy Fruehan and Magdalene (Hellreigel) Fruehan. He attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned both a bachelor’s degree (1963) and Ph.D. degree (1966) in metallurgical engineering. His thesis advisor was Geoff Belton. Dick married his high school sweetheart, Marion “Bonnie” Langan, while at the University of Pennsylvania.

    After completing his degrees, he moved to London as a National Science Foundation postdoctoral research fellow at Imperial College to work with Britain’s leading chemical metallurgist, Frederick D. Richardson. At Imperial College he developed a method of in-situ measurement of oxygen in liquid copper. After a year in London, he joined the U.S. Steel Company as a scientist at the E.C. Bain Laboratory for Fundamental Research in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, where he joined noted chemical metallurgists Ethem Turkdogan and Laurence Darken (NAS 1961). The publications based on this trio’s work were fundamental to the development of iron and steelmaking processes over the next 20 years. In 1980, after 12 years at U.S. Steel, Dick joined CMU as a professor in the Department of Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science. He founded, in 1984, the Center for Iron and Steelmaking Research at CMU, which became the leading research center in the world on iron and steelmaking. He was the inaugural POSCO Endowed Chair Professor at CMU before becoming, in 1997, the inaugural U.S. Steel Endowed Chair Professor. Both chairs were endowed after Dick joined CMU and in recognition of the prominence of steelmaking research at CMU.

    After joining U.S. Steel, Dick expanded his research on oxygen activity in liquid metals to liquid steel and developed the first electrochemical probe to measure oxygen activity in liquid steel. He received an Industrial Research 100 Award in 1970 and the R.W. Hunt Award from the American Institute for Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers (AIME) in the same year for this development. An oxygen probe is now used worldwide in every heat of steel and is one of the key engineering developments in steelmaking technology within the past 50 years. Dick won many awards during his career, the major awards being the Sydney Gilcrist Thomas Medal of the Metals Society (UK) in 1977; a second Hunt award and the Chipman Award of AIME in 1982; the Champion Mathewson Award of AIME in 1989; a second Chipman Award in 1991; the Albert Saveur Achievement Award of ASM International in 1993; The Howe Lecture Award of the Association for Iron and Steel Technology in 1996; the Benjamin F. Fairless Award of AIME in 1999 for “his many contributions to the physical chemistry of steelmaking and his tireless efforts to improve the technical foundation of the steel industry”; the Brimacombe Prize in 2002; and the Bessemer Gold Medal of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining in 2004. Dick was also a distinguished member and fellow of the Iron and Steel Society (1985) and an honorary member of the Iron and Steel Institute of Japan (2005) and AIME (2007). He served as president of the Iron and Steel Society in 1990.

    Dick liked to travel. He also enjoyed teaching, and he combined both by giving lectures at conferences and short courses at universities and at steel companies. He visited many countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America to lecture and teach, but he enjoyed Australia, where his doctoral advisor Geoff Belton was the director of research for Broken Hill Proprietary, more than any other country and for many years spent a few months there each year. Australia combined his love of the beach with his love of tennis (he attended the Australian Open many years), and anyone who played tennis with Dick found him to be a fierce competitor. He won his age group in Pittsburgh tennis tournaments many years.

    On a personal level, Dick was an incredibly focused individual. He never wasted time. When he appeared in the office, it was all work. He was very efficient; his ability to accomplish significant tasks in a short time was legendary. He was a great leader and cared deeply for his graduate students, and he saw his accomplishments through the success of those he mentored. He stated during his retirement from CMU that “without a doubt my greatest accomplishments are the students I have worked with.” Prof. Fruehan mentored 40 doctoral and 20 master’s students. Dick was also a mentor to students who would become faculty members worldwide. In addition to his own students who are now faculty members, postdoctoral fellows from around the world worked in his labs. The “Fruehan group” brought together researchers from Africa, Australia, China, India, Japan, and Korea. These researchers developed their own steelmaking knowledge and technology based on the “Fruehan method,” through which fundamental science and engineering principles can solve difficult problems in real processes by careful and thoughtful laboratory experimentation at high temperatures.

    Dick is survived by his three children, Scott, Elizabeth, and Rebecca.