Katz, Donald La Verne, 1907-....

Alternative names
Birth 1907
Death 1989

Biographical notes:

Born in Jackson County, Michigan on 1 August 1907. Died on 29 May 1989. Education: B.S.E., Chemical Engineering, University of Michigan (1931), M.S., Chemical Engineering, University of Michigan (1932), Ph.D., Chemical Engineering, University of Michigan (1933). Employment: 1933-1936 Phillips Petroleum Company, 1939-1989 University of Michigan.

From the description of Oral history interview with Donald L. Katz 1986 August 22 (Chemical Heritage Foundation). WorldCat record id: 186432754

Professor of chemical engineering at the University of Michigan.

From the description of Donald L. Katz papers, 1933-1989. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 34419725

Donald La Verne Katz, chemical engineer and educator, was born August 1, 1907 on the Schnackenberg-Katz farm, Waterloo Township, Michigan, one of four children of Gottlieb and Lucy Schnackenberg Katz; he died in Ann Arbor on May 29, 1989 at the age of 81.

Katz attended a one-room school near his home through the eighth grade, began high school at Grass Lake, and then commuted to Jackson to complete high school. He earned the B.S. degree in chemical engineering at the University of Michigan in 1931, and continued his studies there for the M.S. in 1932 and Ph.D. in 1933. He worked his way through school, and in later years, attributed his ability to accomplish many tasks to the work ethic he had learned as a young farm boy.

He was employed by Phillips Petroleum Company in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, 1933-1936, where he initiated a petroleum production research program leading to the concept, probably first enunciated by Katz, of reservoir engineering. In 1936 he returned to the University of Michigan as assistant professor of chemical engineering, rising to associate professor (1942-1943), professor (1943-1966), Alfred H. White university professor of chemical engineering (1966-1977), and professor emeritus (1977 until his death); he was chairman of the department of chemical and metallurgical engineering, 1951-1962.

Katz's consultation career in gas reservoir and storage facilities began in the 1950s as a consultant on behalf of Michigan Consolidated Gas Company (MichCon) in the design of underground storage fields to meet the need for natural gas in winter. He was also a consultant on two pipeline projects. As a consultant to the Natural Gas Pipeline Company of America and the Northern Illinois Gas Company, he designed aquifer storage fields for natural gas in Illinois and Iowa.

As an educator, Professor Katz was instrumental in promoting the use of computers in engineering and design education.

Katz was a prolific writer of papers and books and had a number of patents granted to him. Among the books, his Handbook of Natural Gas Engineering (1959) was translated into Russian in 1965; the book solidified his global reputation as an expert in phase behavior, gas hydrates, underground storage and reservoir engineering.

He was chairman of the National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council (NAS-NRC) Committee on Hazardous Marine Materials, Advisory to the U.S. Coast Guard, 1964-1972, receiving the Coast Guard's highest award for distinguished public service. He also chaired the NAS-NRC Committee on Air Quality and Power Plant Emissions, 1974-1975, which studied acid rain and recommended stack gas scrubbing for high-sulfur coal plants.

Katz was president of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers in 1959, a member of many other professional societies, and the recipient of numerous scientific awards, including the prestigious National Medal of Science from President Reagan in a 1983 White House ceremony.

In his community, Dr. Katz served as a member of the Ann Arbor Board of Education, 1948-1957, and president of the board for three years. A member of the First United Methodist Church, he also served on the Ann Arbor Council of Churches in the 1940s.

Katz was married in 1932 to Lila Maxine Crull who died in 1965. Two children were born to them. His second wife was Elizabeth Harwood Correll.

From the guide to the Donald La Verne Katz papers, 1933-1989, (Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan)


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  • Chemical engineer--Biography
  • Oil fields
  • Chemical engineer--Interviews
  • Natural gas
  • Chemical engineering
  • Explosions
  • Engineers--Michigan--Ann Arbor
  • Water tunnels
  • Engineers


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  • United States (as recorded)
  • Port Huron (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Oklahoma (as recorded)
  • Port Huron (Mich.) (as recorded)