March 15, 2012 — Elmer L. Gaden Jr., a retired chemical engineering professor, died March
10 in Charlottesville. He was 88.
Known as "the father of biochemical engineering," Gaden held
the Wills Johnson Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University
until his retirement in 1994.
A service celebrating his life will be held March 24 at 2 p.m. at Thomas
Jefferson Memorial Church, Unitarian Universalist on Rugby Road.
Foremost among his many awards was the 2009 Fritz and Delores Russ Prize,
recognized as one of engineering's highest honors. The prize was awarded
by the National Academy of Engineering and Ohio University for Gaden's
pioneering research, which enabled the large-scale manufacture of antibiotics
such as penicillin.
"His work changed medical practices in nearly every country in
the world," said James H. Aylor, dean of U.Va.'s School
of Engineering and Applied Science. "He was
also a dedicated educator and was witty and charming to the end of his
Calling Gaden "a gentleman and a scholar," Aylor said, "He
will be missed."
After earning his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in chemical
engineering from Columbia University, Gaden served on Columbia's faculty
from 1949 until 1974, chairing the chemical engineering department for
12 years during that time. He also founded the journal Biotechnology
and Bioengineering, which he edited until 1983. After leaving Columbia,
he became dean of the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Business
Administration at University of Vermont, but missed the classroom and,
in 1979, resigned to come to U.Va.
After his retirement in 1994, U.Va. hosted a daylong symposium and banquet
in his honor.
Gaden's other notable honors included the MacWade Award from the students
of U.Va.'s School of Engineering and Applied Science and Columbia's Great
Teacher Award. In 2007, Columbia established the Gaden Lecture, which
annually brings a distinguished lecturer to the university.
Also a passionate historian, Gaden taught military history at Columbia
and led informal day tours of Virginia's Civil War battlefields for students,
colleagues and friends.
In retirement, Gaden volunteered to teach adults how to read.
He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Jennifer; a daughter, Barbara;
sons David and Paul; their spouses; and two grandchildren. He is also
survived by generations of chemical and biochemical engineers, to whom
he was professor and mentor.