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National Academy of Engineering Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 10
Membership Directory
PublisherNational Academies Press
Copyright2002
ISBN978-0-309-08457-4
Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 10

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  • WERNER STUMM
    
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             WERNER STUMM                                             223
    
                              WERNER STUMM
    
    
                                      1924–1999
    
                                 BY JAMES J.MORGAN
    
                WERNER STUMM, professor emeritus at the Swiss Federal Institute of
            Technology (ETH Zürich) and former director of the Institute for Water
            Resources and Water Pollution Control (EAWAG) in Dübendorf, Switzerland,
            died at his home in Küsnacht, Switzerland, on April 14, 1999.
                Werner Stumm was born in Wolfhalden, Switzerland, on October 8, 1924,
            and received his early education in Switzerland. He earned the Ph.D. in chemistry
            from the University of Zürich in 1952. His thesis research was in inorganic
            chemistry under the mentorship of Professor Gerold Schwarzenbach, a
            coordination chemist who was a pioneer in the use of complexing agents for
            chemical analysis. Werner’s doctoral research centered on the use of ion-
            exchange resins and complexing agents for chemical analysis.
                After receiving his Ph.D., Werner joined the chemistry staff of the Institute
            for Water Resources and Water Pollution Control, or EAWAG, a research
            institute of ETH Zürich. At EAWAG, he became interested for the first time in
            water treatment and water quality protection. Seeking to deepen his understanding
            of water chemistry, in 1954 and 1955 he spent a postdoctoral year at Harvard, in
            the Division of Engineering and Applied Physics, pursuing independent and
            unusually innovative research on iron corrosion in natural waters, which resulted
            in a highly original paper, “Calcium Carbonate Deposition at Iron Surfaces.”
    
    
                 
    
    
             WERNER STUMM                                             224
    
             In 1956 he was called to Harvard as assistant professor of sanitary chemistry. At
             Harvard he initiated a research program into topics such as corrosion, rates of iron
             oxidation reactions in water, and coagulation of particles in water. In 1961 he
             became the Gordon McKay Associate Professor of Applied Chemistry, then
             Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Chemistry in 1964. He became a U.S.
             citizen in 1968.
                From 1956 through 1970 Werner Stumm established a strong research and
             teaching program in water chemistry at Harvard. His laboratory became a magnet
             for doctoral students in environmental engineering, postdoctoral scholars in many
             disciplines, and visiting research scientists and engineers from the United States
             and other parts of the world. The emphasis in his research during the Harvard
             years was on application of fundamental chemistry to water quality engineering
             processes and ecosystem protection. Among the leading research
             accomplishments of that period in Werner Stumm’s career were his work on rates
            of iron corrosion in relation to water chemistry, kinetic laws for iron and
            manganese oxidation in water, chemical aspects of coagulation processes in
            water, buffering in natural waters, the role and control of algal nutrients in water
            pollution, polymer flocculation of microorganisms, and chemical aspects of rapid
            filtration processes for particle removal. It is interesting to note that of the group
            of Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows who worked with Werner Stumm in
            the 1960s, five have since been elected to membership in National Academy of
            Engineering. His influence as a research leader and mentor was great indeed.
                During his last few years as a professor at Harvard, Werner Stumm began to
            formulate a unified approach to natural water chemistry, a broad vision
            encompassing both applications to water technology and processes in the natural
            water environment. In 1966 he organized a symposium on “Equilibrium Concepts
            in Natural Waters” at a national meeting of the American Chemical Society. In
            the resulting proceedings, Werner first introduced the idea of aquatic chemistry
            as a unifying approach. Two traditions were joined: that of van’t Hoff,
            Goldschmidt, and Sillén in explaining natural water compositions; and that of
    
    
                 
    
    
             WERNER STUMM                                             225
    
             Langelier, Buswell, Larson, and Black in improving corrosion control and water
             treatment. The widely used textbook AquaticChemistry, which first appeared in
            1970, was one of the early fruits of his remarkable vision.
                In 1970 Werner Stumm returned to Switzerland to become professor of
            aquatic chemistry at ETH and director of the EAWAG, the institute where he
            began his career eighteen years before. At the EAWAG Werner provided the
            intellectual leadership for a vigorous program of research in aquatic chemistry.
            At the same time that he guided the institute to a position at the forefront of
            environmental research, his own studies became more sharply focused on the
            chemistry of interfaces. Study of chemical processes in Swiss lakes and rivers
            received great emphasis. His own research had two principal goals: quantitative
            description of solid-water interface processes in natural waters; and understanding
            how to better protect aquatic systems under the stress of human activities. For
            protection of aquatic systems, Stumm urged an ecosystem perspective for all
            aquatic systems, integrating understanding of pertinent chemical, geochemical,
            biological and physical processes. Among the impacts on aquatic systems that
            EAWAG investigated under his leadership were those from atmospheric
            deposition, such as acid rain and fog, as well as a wide range of terrestrial inputs.
                As EAWAG’s director, Stumm shaped the institute along multidisciplinary
            lines in applied research, building up strength in both environmental sciences and
            environmental engineering. Through his efforts he helped bring EAWAG to a
            preeminent position worldwide. He recruited outstanding scientists and engineers
            to develop EAWAG’s programs. Innovations in environmental analysis, water
             technology, modeling of aquatic systems, and chemical and biological dynamics
             in water were fostered during his time as the director. Scientists and engineers
             from the world over came to EAWAG to pursue research and to learn of new
             developments in environmental science and technology.
                The fundamental contributions of Werner Stumm to understanding surface
             chemistry and particle removal in water technology earned him election to the
             National Academy of Engi
    
    
                 
    
    
             WERNER STUMM                                             226
    
             neering in 1991. The central theme of his research into particles and surfaces was
             that of chemical speciation, the distinct forms of charged and neutral chemical
             entities on particle surfaces. Surface species were in turn related to species
             concentrations in water through equilibrium, for example, protons, metal ions,
             anions, and polymers. In his early studies at Harvard, continuing on through his
             twenty-two years of research at EAWAG, the concept of speciation in water and
             on surfaces presented a satisfying picture of many key processes in
             environmental systems, such as adsorption of contaminants, rates of solid
             dissolution, oxidation-reduction processes in water, and surface catalysis. Werner
             Stumm played a seminal role in developing the surface complex formation model
             of adsorption to particles in water. The principal findings from Stumm’s research
             were based primarily on macroscopic equilibrium and kinetic experiments,
             interpreted through simple chemical models, augmented by then-available tools
             for molecular observations, such as electron-nuclear double resonance and IR
             spectroscopy. Over the past decade, many of the important conclusions in his
             early work on surface speciation have been confirmed and extended by other
             scientists using newer spectroscopic and microscopic methods.
                For Werner Stumm pursuit of a deep understanding of the processes
             governing natural water systems was a unifying theme of his life. He firmly
             believed that information at the molecular level was needed to understand local,
             regional, and global aspects of elemental cycles and impacts of pollution.
             Paralleling his love of natural water chemistry was his great dedication to
             teaching and mentoring young scientists and engineers. He was extremely
             generous of his time and energy. He was “Doctor Father” for more than forty
            Ph.D. students. During his career he authored or coauthored more than 300
            research papers and produced sixteen books. In addition to his professorial
            tenures at Harvard and at ETH Zürich, he was, at various times in his career,
            visiting professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; the University
            of Bern; University of Washington; Caltech; and Johns Hopkins. He traveled
            widely to many parts of the world to lecture on aquatic chemistry.
    
    
                 
    
    
             WERNER STUMM                                             227
    
                Werner was much honored in his lifetime. The University of Geneva, KTH
            Stockholm, University of Crete, Northwestern University, and Technion
            conferred honorary doctorates. He was recognized with the American Chemical
            Society’s Monsanto Prize for Pollution Control in 1977, the Tyler Prize for
            Environmental Achievement in 1986, the Simon W.Freese Award of the
            American Society of Civil Engineers in 1991, the Goldschmidt Medal of the
            Geochemical Society in 1998, and the Stockholm Water Prize in 1999. On
            occasions of such honors, Werner unfailingly expressed his heartfelt appreciation
            to his students and scientific colleagues. On the occasion of receiving the
            Goldschmidt Medal he remarked: “It has been an especially gratifying privilege
            to be a teacher and to interact with my students over nearly five decades. My own
            research could not have been completed without the help and enthusiasm of [my]
            doctoral students.” Werner Stumm was a man of great scientific and personal
            generosity. His contributions to the environment will be lasting. We cherish his
            legacy.
    
    
                 
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