National Academy of Engineering Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 10
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Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 10

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             J.KEITH BRIMACOMBE                                        29
                         J.KEITH BRIMACOMBE
                                  BY FRANK F.APLAN
                J. (JAMES) KEITH BRIMACOMBE (NAE foreign associate elected in
            1997), died suddenly of a heart attack on December 16, 1997, at Vancouver,
            British Columbia, Canada, at age fifty-four. He was president and chief executive
            officer of the newly established Canadian Foundation for Innovation and was on
            leave from the University of British Columbia (UBC), where he was Alcan Chair
            of Process Engineering and founding director of the Centre for Metallurgical
            Process Engineering.
                Professor Brimacombe was born in Windsor, Nova Scotia, on December 7,
            1943. He received his B.A.Sc. degree (with honors) in metallurgical engineering
            from UBC in 1966, a Ph.D. degree from Imperial College, University of London
            in 1970, and an honorary doctorate from the Colorado School of Mines in 1994.
            He served as a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
            from 1992 to 1993 and was a professional engineer in British Columbia.
                Few, if any, people on the North American continent can match his intense
            involvement and contributions to metallurgical societies. He was 1995 president
            of the Metallurgical Society of the Canadian Institute for Mining, Metallurgy, and
            Petroleum (CIM), 1993 president of the Minerals, Metals, and Materials Society
            (TMS/AIME), 1995 president of the Iron and Steel Society (ISS/AIME) and at
            the time of his death was president-elect-designate of the American Institute of
            Mining, Metallurgi
             J.KEITH BRIMACOMBE                                        30
             cal, and Petroleum Engineers (AIME). He was also a member of the Association
             of Professional Engineers of British Columbia, the American Society for Metals
             (ASM) International, the Institute of Metals (Great Britain), the Iron and Steel
             Institute of Japan, the Society of Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration (SME/
             AIME), and Sigma Xi. He was a member of both the Canadian Academy of
             Engineering (fellow) and the U.S. National Academy of Engineering (foreign
                Dr. Brimacombe received twenty-eight major awards from Canadian, U.S.,
             and overseas professional groups and nineteen awards for best paper from
             professional engineering societies. Among the many awards and distinctions he
             received were the following:
                 •   officer of the Order of Canada;
                 •   fellow, Royal Society of Canada;
                 •   fellow, Canadian Academy of Engineering;
                 •   gold medal for science and engineering of the Natural Science and
                   Engineering Research Council of Canada;
                 •   Gold Medal of the British Columbia Science and Engineering Society;
                 •   CIM fellow and Alcan Award;
                 •   distinguished member of ISS, the John Chipman Award, the Charles
                   H.Herty Jr. Award, and the Robert W.Hunt Award of ISS;
                 •   TMS fellow, the Champion H.Mathewson Award, the Extraction and
                   Processing Technology Award, and the Extraction and Processing
                   Science Award;
                 •   The Marcus A.Grossman Young Author Award and the Henry Marion
                   Howe Medal of ASM International; and
                 •   Williams Prize, Metals Society (Great Britain).
                His award of the prestigious Canada Gold Medal for Science and
             Engineering cited him as “one of the innovative giants of 20th century
            metallurgical process engineering and a role model for young Canadian scientists
            and engineers.”
                In his obituary, officers of the Iron and Steel Society noted that “Keith
            possessed a rare combination of intellect, energy and engaging personality, which
            made him extremely popular and
             J.KEITH BRIMACOMBE                                        31
             effective as a leader,” and “Keith’s untimely passing is tragic and has robbed the
            iron and steel industry of one of its most brilliant and dynamic champions.” His
            work and his reputation crossed many borders, especially between Canada and
            the United States.
                Professor Brimacombe, at the time of his death, was one of the world’s most
            outstanding process metallurgists. He excelled in teaching, educated more than
            sixty graduate students, and dedicated his career to developing the intellectual
            potential of those students he taught or whose research he directed. In his research
            he used mathematical models, together with laboratory and industrial
            measurements to understand complex process phenomena in both ferrous and
            nonferrous metallurgy. His studies led to world-recognized advances and cost
            savings in such diverse processes as the casting of metals and fused refractories,
            ladle refining of steel, calcination of limestone, roasting of ore concentrates, flash
            smelting of copper and zinc concentrates, and extrusion processes and
            microstructural development of steel and aluminum. The watchword of his
            research was the application of good science and engineering to the solution of
            practical problems, and he played an important role in building bridges between
            academia and industry. More than seventy-five metallurgical and allied firms
            sought out his advice, and his consulting activities allowed him to focus on real
            problems in need of a solution. He was a dynamic and visionary force in
            developing the outstanding materials processing program at UBC and founding
            the university’s superb $21 million advanced materials and process engineering
            laboratory. This facility is certainly one of the finest of its kind at a North
            American university. In addition to more than 300 publications, he also
            disseminated his research results through short courses at UBC, at professional
            society meetings worldwide, and at many industrial sites. His annual course on
            the continuous casting of steel would typically attract over a hundred
                Even before his election to the National Academy of Engineering,
            Brimacombe had made important contributions to the National Materials
            Advisory Board of the National Research Council (1992 to 1997). He was an
            excellent committee mem
             J.KEITH BRIMACOMBE                                        32
             her because his comments were always perceptive, well thought out, and based on
             reliable and timely information.
                In a memorial to Keith Brimacombe, John Evans, chairman of the Canadian
             Foundation for Innovation noted that when Keith was approached to lead the
             newly established foundation, he offered to serve without hesitation, saying that
             he had received so much from Canada in his career that he welcomed the
             opportunity to give something back to help others. Evans also noted that
             Brimacombe cared deeply for those with whom he worked; to which we can add
                Since his death, the Brimacombe Foundation has been established in his
             honor at UBC to recognize young materials process engineers and to establish a
             Brimacombe Scholars Program for research in academia or in industry. In
             addition, a Brimacombe Memorial Symposium was held in Vancouver, on
             October 1–4, 2000, sponsored by those professional societies where he had
            previously served as president, MetSoc of CIM, ISS, and TMS. Nine foreign
            mining and metallurgical societies representing Australia, China (2), France,
            Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Japan, and South Africa also served as
            conference cosponsors in tribute to Dr. Brimacombe.
                Dr. Brimacombe is survived by his wife, Margaret; two daughters, Kathryn
            and Jane; his mother, Jean Scullion; and his sister, Margaret McKeowen.
             J.KEITH BRIMACOMBE                                                33
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