Warren K. Lewis papers
Scope and Contents
This collection contains material by and about Warren K. Lewis. His ties with his family are evident through correspondence between him and his children and grandchildren. Of interest is a tape of a 1970 interview of Warren K. Lewis conducted by his grandaughter Rosalind Williams, who later became a professor of the history of science and technology at MIT in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society.
There is also summary historical information about his career, including his consulting work with Esso Research and Standard Oil (now Exxon-Mobil) and evidence of his role with World War II government consulting work, although detailed technical information and reports are not included. There are few technical publications, although a list of his technical research publications is included. There are note cards kept by Lewis which he used for speeches and articles, and among the speeches and publications in the collection are those that reveal his philosophy of chemical engineering as a profession.
The only digital content is a digitized recording of a "Doc" Lewis Speech at the 50th Anniversary of the Department of Chemical Engineering. Transferred at some point from cassette tape by the MIT Audio Video Services Department. The content is an audio WAV file.
- 1898 - 1990
- Lewis, Warren Kendall, 1882-1975 (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open.
Conditions Governing Use
Access to collections in the Department of Distinctive Collections is not authorization to publish. Please see the MIT Libraries Permissions Policy for permission information. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the donor of the collection or MIT.
Warren K. Lewis, 1882-1975, SB, 1905, MIT; PhD in chemistry, 1908, University of Breslau, Germany, became assistant professor of chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1910 and professor of chemical engineering in 1914. From 1920 to1929 he served as the first head of the newly established Department of Chemical Engineering. He then returned full time to teaching and research.
Warren K. Lewis helped establish chemical engineering as an independent discipline. He collaborated with William H. Walker and W. H. McAdams in writing the textbook Principles of Chemical Engineering. After its publication in 1923 it became the standard for students of the field.
Lewis's research interests were many, but of particular significance is the development of new methods for refining petroleum. In the 1920s, as a consultant to Standard Oil of New Jersey, Lewis’s work on fluidized powders and the control of their movement in a chamber led to the development of a process for producing high-octane fuels, a great advantage to Allied air power in World War II. During World War I, Lewis worked on gas defense with the Chemical Warfare Service and the Bureau of Mines. In World War II Lewis was a member of the National Defense Research Committee and an advisor to the Office of Production Research and Development. He also served as a member of the Senior Advisory Committee for the Manhattan Project. (1)
From 1947 to 1949 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Warren K. Lewis chaired a committee appointed by the MIT faculty, the Committee on Educational Survey, to examine the principles of education that had guided academic policy at MIT and determine if they were applicable to the new post-war world. This committee set in place organizational and curriculum changes that served as the standard for future Institute committees and review efforts. Lewis was so closely associated with the work of the committee that the committee's final report is known at MIT as the "Lewis Report.” Lewis became professor emeritus in 1948 but continued teaching as a department lecturer.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology recognized his achievements by establishing the Warren K. Lewis Professorship of Chemical Engineering in 1969, and the Department of Chemical Engineering honored him by establishing in 1978 the annual Warren K. Lewis Lectureship which features speakers from industry and universities.
Warren K. Lewis was born in Laurel, Delaware, where he attended local schools and then a year of high school in Newton, Massachusetts, before entering MIT in 1901. He married Rosalind Kenway in 1909. They had four children, Rosalind (Mrs. George McFarland), Mary (Mrs. Cherry Emerson), Warren K. Lewis, Jr., and H. Clay Lewis. Rosalind H. Williams, granddaughter of Warren K. and Rosalind D. Lewis, is the Bern Dibner Professor of the History of Science and Technology in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT.
(1) Massachusetts Institute of Technology, News Office Release, March 11, 1975
1.3 Cubic Feet (4 manuscript boxes)
385 Megabytes (1 digital file)
Language of Materials
This collection contains material by and about Warren K. Lewis, who helped establish chemical engineering as an independent discipline. He was a member of the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1910 until his death in 1975, having served as the first head of the newly established Department of Chemical Engineering from 1920 to 1929. The collection includes a number of Lewis’s speeches and publications that reveal his philosophy of chemical engineering as a profession, but there is little material about his work as a consultant to industry and the government. Biographical materials in the collection include a recorded interview of Lewis conducted by his granddaughter, Rosalind Williams, who later became Professor of the History of Science and Techology at MIT.
Materials are stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Digital content originally on CD. Digital archivist, Joe Carrano, transferred the content off of the disc in 2022 June to DDC digital storage.
Digital content originally on CD. Digital archivist, Joe Carrano, transferred the content off of the disc using the IsoBuster software.
- Lewis, Warren Kendall, 1882-1975
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- Faculty Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Lewis, Warren Kendall, 1882-1975 (Person)
- Guide to the Papers of Warren K. Lewis
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- 2021 July 30: Edited by Lana Mason to remove aggrandizing terms in the abstract and biographical notes description.
- 2022 July 11: Digital archivist, Joe Carrano, edited the collection-level notes, extent, and listing to reflect digital media transfer accession 2022-079.
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