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Past Winner
1997 Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering

J. Keith Brimacombe

Metallurgical Process Engineering

The University of British Columbia


Dr. Keith Brimacombe is one of the innovative giants of 20th century metallurgical process engineering, and a major contributor to the economic competitiveness of the Canadian materials industry. Using exceptional creativity and intellectual rigour, he has demonstrated the power of a research approach that combines complex mathematical modelling with fundamental studies of physical and chemical phenomena, and direct measurement of industrial processes. His groundbreaking studies are recognized worldwide and have led to remarkable advances and savings in processes as diverse as the continuous and ingot casting of steel, direct-chill casting of zinc, static casting of fused refractories, direct reduction and limestone calcination in rotary kilns, flash smelting of lead and copper concentrates, copper converting, ladle refining of steel, microstructural engineering of steel and aluminum, extrusion of metal-matrix composites and molybdenite roasting in a fluidized bed.

Throughout his career, Dr. Brimacombe has played a vital role in transferring the knowledge from his research to industry and in building partnerships between the universities and industry. His vision and his uncompromising commitment to excellence in research have inspired and shaped the careers and development of professionals in Canada and around the world. Many of his more than 60 graduate students have themselves become leaders in academia or industry. A gifted speaker, he is eagerly sought after by the global metallurgical industry and has presented over 50 courses in companies on every major continent. His annual course on continuous casting of steel attracts over 100 participants.

Dr. Brimacombe has also been the primary force in the development of a world-class program in materials process engineering at the University of British Columbia. As a result of his vision, the university secured the necessary funding to open the $21-million Advanced Materials and Process Engineering Laboratory (AMPEL). Described as the best facility of its kind in any university in North America, the new laboratory brings together physicists, chemists, and materials engineers working on a wide range of materials and processes.

For his pioneering efforts, Dr. Brimacombe has received twenty-eight major national and international awards and nineteen best paper awards. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and of the Canadian Academy of Engineering, and he received an Honorary Doctorate from the Colorado School of Mines in 1994. He is also the only professional who has served as president of the three major societies serving materials engineers in North America. He has been awarded the Killam Memorial Prize from the Canada Council, the E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship from NSERC and the B.C. Science and Engineering Gold Medal. In 1987, he received the Ernest C. Manning Principal Prize, reserved for a Canadian "who has shown outstanding talent in conceiving and developing new concepts, procedures, processes or products of potential benefit to Canada and society at large." His contribution is succinctly described in his citation for the Office of the Order of Canada, which reads "An internationally acclaimed engineer and scientist, he is an advocate of cooperation between universities and industry and a founder of the Centre for Metallurgical Process Engineering. His research utilizing computerized, mathematical analyses has resulted in improved quality in a host of consumer products and lower production costs, and has helped put Canada in the forefront of metals processing, particularly in the steel industry."