Inside Rensselaer
Alumni Hall of Fame: Showcase of Achievement
* Alumni Hall of Fame Dinner
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Aircraft designer Robert Widmer attended the ceremony.
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The Rensselaer Alumni Hall of Fame inducted its sixth class of members Sept. 9, welcoming seven distinguished alumni whose accomplishments add breadth and depth to the notable achievements represented by the full membership, which now numbers 60. Traditional areas of strength in the hall are enhanced by the addition of geologist Ebenezer Emmons and international bridge builder John A.L. Waddell. William Pitt Mason, a pure water advocate, established chemical engineering at Rensselaer. Iconic engineering venues created by Rensselaer alumni now include sports stadiums built by Frank and Kenneth Osborn. Rensselaer’s significant contributions to aviation are highlighted by aircraft designer Robert Widmer. And Hermann Haus, an expert in quantum optics, was a true communications pioneer.

William Pitt Mason
Teacher Advocate of Pure Water
Class of 1874 (1853-1938)

A pioneer in sanitation chemistry, William Pitt Mason was an unusual combination of chemist, engineer, and medical expert. He spent his entire career at Rensselaer, as teacher, scholar, and practicing scientist. In addition to his undergraduate degree in civil engineering, he earned a medical degree from Albany Medical College and studied bacteriology at the Pasteur Institute. Through his studies of water analysis and water supply, Mason became a major contributor to the world’s knowledge and understanding of the need for pure municipal water supplies. His publications extending over a period of 40 years moved U.S. cities toward pure water and better public health. At Rensselaer, Mason became the founder and first head of the modern departments of chemistry and chemical engineering.

Ebenezer Emmons
Geologist
Class of 1826 (1799-1863)

A graduate of Rensselaer’s first class, Ebenezer Emmons became one of the founders of American geology. His influential work led to the modern understanding of the geology of upstate New York, and served as a model and a standard for the geologic-stratigraphic surveys for the rest of the United States. As state geologist for the northern New York State Geological District, Emmons was responsible for naming the Adirondacks and the Taconic Mountains. Emmons wrote classic texts on geology and other aspects of natural history. Active in the scientific community, he hosted the first meeting of the American Association of Geologists in his Albany home in 1838. The organization later became the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

John Alexander Low Waddell
International Bridge Designer
Class of 1875 (1854-1938)

John A.L. Waddell built a reputation as one of the 20th century’s best known and highly respected bridge builders. Prior to founding his own engineering and design firm, he taught engineering in Japan, where his influence on infrastructure construction was significant. Waddell was a prolific bridge designer, with more than a thousand structures to his credit in the U.S. and Canada, as well as Mexico, Russia, China, Japan, and New Zealand. His bridges spanned the Colorado, Missouri, Niagara, and Mississippi rivers. Waddell’s work set standards for elevated railroad systems and helped develop materials suitable for large-span bridges. His most important contribution was the development of the modern vertical-lift bridge. His patented design was first used in 1893 for Chicago’s South Halsted Street Bridge over the Chicago River; he went on to design more than 100 other movable bridges.

Frank C. Osborn
Class of 1880 (1857-1922)
Kenneth H. Osborn
Class of 1908 (1886-1949)
Stadium Architects and Engineers

This father-and-son combination directed a firm that remains one of Ohio’s and America’s great engineering companies. Frank Osborn founded Osborn Engineering in Cleveland in 1892. The company pioneered in the use of reinforced concrete and built municipal and industrial facilities throughout the country. When Kenneth joined the firm in 1911, he became the company’s key person in stadium design. Under Kenneth’s leadership the firm became the nation’s foremost designer of major-league, municipal, and collegiate stadiums and ballparks. The firm has designed more than 100 stadiums, including such famous parks as Fenway Park in Boston, Yankee Stadium in New York, and Tiger Stadium in Detroit. The firm also designed facilities for colleges and universities, including Michigan, Purdue, West Point, and Notre Dame.

Robert H. Widmer
Aircraft Designer
Class of 1938 (1916- )

Robert Widmer has been a significant contributor to the design of highly successful American military aircraft, from World War II until the end of the 20th century. Recipient of the Ricketts Award as the outstanding aeronautical engineer in his class at Rensselaer, he began his career as an aerodynamic engineer and rose through technical management positions to become vice president of science and engineering for all engineering activities at General Dynamics Corp. Widmer was involved with engineering work on flying boats and major bomber projects. He was the creator and designer of the B-58, the world’s first long-range aircraft capable of sustained supersonic flight, as well as the B-36, F-111, and F-16. A member of the National Academy of Engineering, Widmer has received numerous awards, including the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ Spirit of St. Louis Medal.

Hermann A. Haus
Communications Pioneer
Class of 1951 (1925-2003)

Hermann Haus became one of the world’s foremost authorities on optical communications. A native of Slovenia, he earned degrees at Union College, Rensselaer, and MIT before joining the faculty at MIT, where he was a leader in research and teaching for nearly a half-century. His pathbreaking work in quantum optics ranged from fundamental investigations of quantum uncertainty as manifested in optical communications to the practical generation of ultra-short optical pulses. The fiber-optic undersea cables that provide rapid voice and data communications among the U.S., Europe, and Asia are the result of the pioneering investigations of Haus and fellow researchers at AT&T Bell Laboratories and Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Research Laboratories. A member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences, Haus was awarded the National Medal of
Science in 1995.

To view the complete list of members in Rensselaer’s Alumni Hall of Fame, go to: www.rpi.edu/about/hof

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 1, Number 4, September 27, 2007
©2007 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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