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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             ALFRED R.COOPER, JR.                                      61
                         ALFRED R.COOPER, JR.
                                BY WILLIAM R.PRINDLE
                ALFRED R.COOPER, JR., emeritus professor of ceramics at Case Western
            Reserve University, died on December 13, 1996.
                Al was born on January 1, 1924, in New York City and grew up in the
            nearby community of White Plains. His mother, of German descent, served as a
            homemaker, and his father, of Irish ancestry, was a self-employed glove salesman
            who traveled throughout the New York and New England area. A grandmother
            and other relatives lived in the neighborhood, and from all accounts Al and his
            sister, Betty, enjoyed a happy childhood. Al was interested in sports, and beyond
            the usual schoolyard sports he learned to play tennis and golf, and when he was
            old enough, he would occasionally accompany his father on his sales trips, where
            he had the opportunity to play on many New England golf courses.
                He was a good student with a great curiosity about everything and
            everybody around him, a trait that remained with him all his life. Al had a well-
            rounded high school career, playing in the band and also playing basketball, but
            he demonstrated a particular gift for mathematics and science, making perfect
            scores on the New York State Regent’s exams. After he graduated from White
            Plains High School, he entered Alfred University in 1941 as an engineering
            student, majoring in glass technology. As World War II progressed, he became
            increasingly caught up in the conflict, and in 1943 joined the U.S. Navy,
            obtaining a commission
             ALFRED R.COOPER, JR.                                      62
             and serving as an officer on a destroyer in the Pacific. Al was discharged in 1946
             and returned to Alfred University, where he resumed his studies.
                Not all of his time was devoted to class work, however, and Al, who was
             tall and quick, became a major player on the university’s basketball team. One
            account of the time described Al as “a bright light in an otherwise dismal season.”
            He also read widely and developed a lifelong love of poetry.
                Upon obtaining his B.S. degree in glass technology in 1948, Al took a
            position as a group leader in the RCA Cathode Ray Tube Production plant in
            Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In the four years that he worked at RCA, he learned a
            great deal about the behavior and problems of glass tank melting furnaces, and
            this knowledge helped to qualify him for his next position, in 1952, as manager
            of laboratories for the Hartford Empire Division of the Emhart Corporation. In
            his new job Al traveled widely throughout the country, working as a
            troubleshooter solving glass composition and melting problems for a variety of
            glass companies. He became well known in the glass industry, was an articulate
            participant in technical meetings, and served on various industry testing
                Nevertheless, in 1956, he decided to seek an advanced degree to learn, as he
            put it to a friend, more about the physics and chemistry that lay behind the
            phenomena that he observed in his glass plant problem solving. He had four
            children at the time, so this was a major change in his family’s circumstances. In
            1960 he received a doctor of science degree at the Massachusetts Institute of
            Technology and became an assistant professor of ceramics at MIT, and later
            (1963) an associate professor.
                In 1965 Al left MIT and founded the ceramics graduate teaching and
            research program in the Metallurgy Department at what was then Case Institute
            of Technology, now a part of Case Western Reserve University. He continued to
            build the ceramics program, in particular by hiring some gifted faculty members
            and established what is generally recognized as one of the strongest programs of
            its kind. Al was made professor of ceramics at Case in 1968 and held that position
            until being named emeritus professor in 1992; by that time 40 percent of the
            Materials Science
             ALFRED R.COOPER, JR.                                      63
             and Engineering Department’s research was devoted to ceramics.
                Alfred Cooper’s major contributions lie in three areas: he identified and
            quantified chemical and physical factors that govern the continuous glass melting
            process; he clarified the conditions necessary for the formation of glass and the
            relationship of the resulting structures to glass properties; and he was prominent
            as an educator of glass technologists and ceramic engineers.
                Al’s work on glass melting enabled furnace designers and operators to
            increase the quality and quantity of glass fused in industrial furnaces. It is
            particularly effective in practical application, as it stems from his personal
            experiences during the early years he spent in glass manufacturing. His papers on
            mixing and melting of raw materials, heat transfer, and the flow of glass in
            furnaces are especially useful. Also valuable are his analyses of diffusion in glass
            and its effect on homogenization and refining of glass. His studies of the strength
            of glass fibers, particularly his classic work on field-assisted ion exchange, led to
            improvements in glass fiber strength.
                In addition to clarifying the principles underlying glass manufacturing, Al
            made many contributions to a better understanding of glass structure. He was
            greatly interested in the random network theory of glass structure, and he
            eventually took a new approach, based network topology, that provided a general
            basis for a theory that fits most glassy systems and helps to account for their
                Those wishing to learn more about Cooper’s work are referred to the
            excellent Festschrift prepared by P.K.Gupta and A.H. Heuer on the occasion of
            his retirement. It may be found in the Journal of the American Ceramic Society,
            Volume 76 (1993) pp. 1077– 1080.
                He had a deep conviction that international collaborations were important to
            the better understanding of glass phenomena and spent a substantial amount of
            time teaching and conducting research abroad. Al was a visiting professor at the
            University of Sheffield (1964 to 1965), at the Technical University of Clausthal,
            Germany, (1972 to 1973), the University of Padua, (1983), visiting lecturer at the
            Building Materials Research In
             ALFRED R.COOPER, JR.                                      64
             stitute, Beijing, (1983), and visiting professor at the Indian Institute of
             Technology, Kharagpur, (1986). He returned to India in 1988 as U.S. cochairman
             of the Indo-U.S. Workshop on Science and Technology of Glass at Bangalore.
             His international contributions were recognized by his election as fellow of the
             Society of Glass Technology (England), election to the Academy of Ceramics
             (Italy), and receiving the first President’s Award of the International Commission
             on Glass (Beijing, 1995).
                His teaching and research resulted in approximately 150 technical papers on
             glass and ceramics, as well as frequent participation in symposia and
             conferences. He twice chaired the Gordon Research Conferences: the 1968
             Conference on Ceramics, and the 1972 Conference on Glass. He was also active
             in the American Ceramic Society (ACerS), serving as both chair and trustee of
             the Glass Division, and was recognized by his peers by election as a fellow, and
             finally, as a distinguished life member.
                Al’s contributions were also recognized by a number of awards, including
             the Raytheon Award of the New England Section of the ACerS, the George
             W.Morey Award of the Glass Division of the ACerS, the Toledo Glass and
             Ceramics Award of the North-western Ohio Section of the ACerS, the Eitel
             Award for excellence in silicate science from the University of Toledo, and the
             Samuel R.Scholes Award from Alfred University. He was also named the Edward
             Orton Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ohio State University in 1990. Cooper
             was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1996.
                After he retired from Case Western Reserve in 1992, he continued to come
             in to his office regularly to write and discuss both scientific and social issues with
             students and faculty. Al enjoyed a wide variety of activities; among them were
             golf and tennis, gardening, jazz and classical music, dancing, and travel. When he
             traveled abroad, he liked particularly to go by sea, for the long, uninterrupted
             opportunity for thinking, or by train, for the opportunity to truly see the
             countryside. He also read and wrote poetry all his life (his favorite poets were
             Wallace Stevens and Baudelaire).
             ALFRED R.COOPER, JR.                                      65
                Al Cooper was an outstanding and beloved figure in glass technology,
            whose contributions were recognized throughout the world. Beyond his
            accomplishments, however, was this wise and gentle man; coupled with his finely
            honed intellectual curiosity was a passion for rigorous solutions to problems—a
             philosophy that he conveyed effectively to his students. Admired by his students
             and colleagues for his integrity, he was modest about his own achievements and
             preferred to talk to others about their accomplishments. His warm, sincere
             interest in others encouraged a generation of young people.
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