Octave Levenspiel


How did you know Octave? Was Dr. Levenspiel your Chemical Engineering professor? Did you play Chinese chess with him? Were you ever fooled by his “I’m the eighth son” story? Some of you probably want to know if ANY of his stories were true. A short biography was written about Tavy, if you really want to know how unique his life was. Visit Lulu.com.

We’d love to know how Octave touched your life.

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David Lindsay wrote on March 17, 2017:
I always looked forward to my classes with Professor Levenspiel. His passion about the subject as well as his joy sharing what he knew made learning fun. Even his test problems were fun to work on! His classes were the main reason I tried to specialize in reaction engineering throughout my career. He was a rare talent and a great person.
Milind Kulkarni wrote on March 17, 2017:
I am deeply saddened to know that Professor Levenspiel passed away. My deepest sympathies to his family and friends. I am personally mourning. This is a terrible loss, not just for the field of chemical engineering, but also for humanity. His ability to simplify complexity was unique. His sense of humor was unparalleled. His kindness was exemplary. His warmth as a person was extremely comforting. I still remember the day when I showed his book on Chemical Reaction Engineering in the US Consulate General in Mumbai to get my student visa to attend Oregon State University. I also remember directly showing up at his office with my luggage on my first day as a clueless foreign student in the University. Without showing any surprise at my outlandish behavior and blissful ignorance, he ensured that I completed my registration as a student and joined Weatherford student dormitory, on the same day! He taught me more than I could ever learn in my life. He taught us in many ways, but he enjoyed making us learn by asking questions we could not answer! He stumped us at will by his questions. I will always cherish the importance of understanding complexity before reducing it to simplicity, which I learnt from him. Professor Levenspiel was one of the greatest human beings I knew. He positively changed and influenced my life. He did the same for many others. His memories will remain with me and countless people. He was remarkable.
Euler Jimenez G. wrote on March 17, 2017:
Professor Levenspiel´s Chemical Reaction Engineering is the one most worn out book I still keep from my early lecturing days at Simon Bolivar University in Caracas, Venezuela (1978-1982). My condolences to his family.
John Medamana wrote on March 17, 2017:
I had the opportunity to attend a talk by Prof Levenspiel in 1976 or 77 in Chennai (then called Madras), India. Professor Levenspiel was visiting Guindy Engineering College, which was across the road from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) where I was a student then. We had used his text book, Chemical Reaction Engineering, during undergraduate. I was so impressed with the book that I walked about two miles from IIT to Guindy to attend the talk. I am so glad I did. He was such a great speaker that I vividly remember that event, after several decades. I must mention the amazing problems at the end of his book chapters. One problem that remains in my memory after many decades is a Sherlock Holmes puzzle about a chemical plant operator who disappeared. The only clue was that the operator was a large man and looked about 18 Stone. The key was to know this obscure unit of measure called Stone!
Professor Levenspiel, RIP.
Ravikiran mandapaka wrote on March 17, 2017:
Dear Prof. Levenspiel,
Thanks a ton, for making Chemical Reaction Engineering as interesting as reading a graphic novel for many Chemical Engineers like me.
Chippla Vandu wrote on March 16, 2017:
I never met Professor Octave Levenspiel in person but his seminal textbook ‘Chemical Reaction Engineering’ was the key reaction engineering textbook at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria. I sent Octave Levenspiel an email in 2002 to thank him for writing such a great book and got a lovely reply from him. Rest in peace and thanks for your immense contribution to the Chemical Engineering community.
Joaquin Pinto Espinoza wrote on March 16, 2017:
I had the opportunity to meet professor Octave at the earliest 90 in Celaya Gto. Mex. At that time, we took a picture with him. Five years later, I wrote a letter to him asking for an opportunity to do research work during a sabbatical year at OSU (of course I included the famous picture). Immediately he answered to me, he was retired but recommended me with Professor Goran Jovanovic. Finally, in 1997 I arrived to Corvallis and I saw him again (we were office partners) and it was amazing the way in how he treated my family during the time that we spent at Corvallis getting our degree, my kids loved him (they call him Grampa!). He was a person that shared everything, I remember that he invited us to his New Port house where we spent a full weekend (he gave us instructions and the keys). In 2003 back to Durango, Mex., I invited him to dictate a chemical engineering course at Instituto Tecnologico de Durango, immediately he said yes! During the closing ceremony, after teaching a full week, he danced and sang with us! This man was amazing and irreplaceable!
I´ll always say thank you for giving us your friendship, God bless him!…My condolences to his family!
David Eckelman wrote on March 15, 2017:
I had the opportunity to take Dr. Levenspiel's Chemical Reaction Engineering class at OSU back in 1975. His method of teaching was unique in that he integrated his special humor into his lectures, homework and tests. It was one of the few chemical engineering classes I earned an A in because his approach to teaching made me want to learn.
I recall a time in class where Dr. Levenspiel had fun with those of us who had scientific calculators by challenging us to see if we could multiply numbers faster on our calculators than he could on his abacus. Needless to say, he beat us every time!
I'll always remember Octave. My condolences to his family. He was an inspiration to me.
Bruno wrote on March 15, 2017:
Dear Professor Levenspiel,
I have never had the opportunity of meeting you face to face, unfortunately, given our geographical distance and time. However, having gone through all of your books thoroughly in the past decade or so, I feel like I know you somehow, and I feel deeply grateful for your life and your dedication. You have been my best teacher, and your work has helped me all the way from undergrad to post-doctoral research. In fact, it was thanks to your brilliant work and your unique teaching style that I decided to pursue a career in Chemical Reaction Engineering.
Rest in Peace, professor. Rest in peace knowing that you, through your works and through us your students, will live forever.
Condolences from the Brazilian ChE community.
Richard Turton wrote on March 15, 2017:
I was very saddened to hear about Octave’s passing. But then I thought back on my days as a graduate student with him in the late 1970s and early 1980s with friends like Manuk Colakyan, Goran Jovanovic, Nick Catipovic, Joe Danko, Ty Daniel, Con Kambitsis, and so many others and I just smiled. What a profound and lasting impression Octave left on all of us. We had so many lunchtime discussions and stimulating research conversations with Octave (and Tom Fitzgerald and Ferhan Kayihan). These were truly the most stimulating and intellectually challenging times of my life. In looking back, I could not have asked for a better mentor (nor did one exist) and a stronger supporter. He truly was a “one of a kind” and all the clichés regarding “breaking the mold”, etc., are true for no one if they are not true for Octave. I hope that over the years I have been able to stimulate and motivate my graduate students in some small fraction of the way that Octave did for me. Everything that I am as an academic I owe to Octave. I am ever grateful for having known him and considering him a friend
Nilesh Choudhary wrote on March 15, 2017:
Love you Octave
From B grade reaction engineering student
Sanjeev wrote on March 15, 2017:
RIP, Prof. Levenspiel.

In addition to his many contributions to Chemical Reaction Engineering, his engaging style, his generosity, and his vast knowledge and ability to simplify complex subjects in simple terms will make him forever one of the great teachers that I've known of. I never really learned under him but always at conferences saw him surrounded by students. That generosity of spirit and desire to teach (no high-brow "I'm the famous professor; you are a student" attitude for him!) separated him from many other great teachers and professors in the universities of America. He was truly a great man and it is a tribute to him that this morning, trying to remember some basic chemical engineering concept, I've reached out to his Chemical Reaction Engineering book (which I bought in India in 1989-90).
Martin and Beryl Leigh wrote on March 13, 2017:
Thank you Tavy, for my oldest, happiest memory. And all the happy encounters since Monday 13th August 2012.
This is what Martin wrote nearly 5 years ago, after the Olympic Games in London:
"The 2012 Olympic Games finished last night in Stratford. The last time the Olympics came to London was in 1948--from 28th July to 14th August. The last time they came to London my American cousin came to see them and stayed with us in Amersham, UK. I think he got tickets for my Dad and brothers, but I was five on July 31st 1948, and was too little to go to the games. But Tavy, who was always up to something, wasn’t going to let that prevent me from taking part.
Our house at the time, backed on to a playing field --the King George V Recreation Ground. You could easily get over the low fence to play in the “Rec”. Tavy said I had to enter a race, but although I was the only entrant, I was not allowed a walk over the fence. Today there is much talk of non-competitive sport; Tavy’s thinking was clearly well ahead of its time. The race: I had to climb over the fence, run right across the Rec and back home again over the fence. I was then told to stand on an “orange box” by the back door. (An orange box was a wooden crate in which oranges were imported and they were often used as kindling for coal fires). Once atop the box, I was formally presented with a small Olympic pennant. I don’t think they played the National Anthem. I flew my ‘Lympic pennant proudly from the end of my bed for some time, but I don’t know what happened to it in the end. But I do remember it well and I’ve always had a picture in my mind of its 5 rings whenever the Limpi-ics are mentioned.
This year, 2012, as the games of the 30th Olympiad are in London, the British Library (where Beryl used to work and now volunteers) has a commemorative exhibition of past Olympic Games. The exhibits mostly come from the Olympic committee itself, and there are lots of stamps and things like that from all over the world at all the different games.
In 1948 Britain had rationing and was still in economic difficulties after the war, and as I have already said this was the time of coal fires, and orange boxes.
There wasn’t much merchandising of the 1948 “Austerity Games”, but in the exhibition there was a small showcase of non-stamp memorabilia. And amongst the old tickets and programmes was my little felt triangular pennant.
From the 2012 Games, I have an Olympic t-shirt. It was awarded to me, by my wife and daughter, for achieving the 69th anniversary of my birth (and the 64th anniversary of my historic marathon run). There are many different designs of t-shirt available, but I chose the one that has the five rings most prominently. This year on Saturday 11th August from 11am – 7pm the King George V Playing Field, King George V Road (there wasn’t such a road in ’48) was the venue for a “Big Screen event” showing live action from the Olympic Games, combined with a local festival offering ‘taster sports’ for everyone to try - and a great programme of entertainment with bands, dancers, street artists and film-makers helping to celebrate the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’!"
If only they knew. Martin.
Bob Yeats wrote on March 13, 2017:
He was my best friend. We had great discussions in our daily seminar walking our dogs. I didn't know anything about comical engineering, but our exchanges were on geology, about which he had a truly independent view. The one I mention here is about dinosaurs, frequently shown with heads held high munching from treetops, which Tavy showed was impossible unless they had several hearts. I thought this merited a paper in Science.
We were both busy writing books, although I was a lot slower than Tavy. I would take a break from my computer for our dog walks, and I didn't understand how he did it: completing two books while I struggled with only one. Role model? You bet.
Takio Yamada wrote on March 13, 2017:
I first met Tavy as Barney’s dad. Then, I was attracted by Tavy’s marvelous, charming personality. He was warm, kind, friendly
manner of person and also, he had unique sense of humor, scholastic intelligences. No wonder he drew attentions among students, teachers, scientists, even many people.
I still remember one of his questions he asked me about “dinosaurs”. Dinosaurs were so big they must have appropriate heartbeat in order to make blood flow all over their body. Here is one of hypothesis, he says, "At the age of Dinosaurs, Earth atmospheric pressure must have had higher barometers than ours otherwise blood flow is sluggish?!" This kind of questions brought me Scientific curiosities!
He was a real educator, Scientist, human being. I am enriched in my life knowing him. He brought people closer together crossing barriers of race, cultures, languages through his works.
I am going to miss this great man. Thank you Tavy. Shalom
Miguel Menendez wrote on March 12, 2017:
His textbook in Chemical Reaction Engineering was THE reference for most Chemical Engineering students and practicioners. He left a profound impresion during his visit to Zaragoza, showing that the most smart persons can join a deep understanding of technical problems with a warm sense of humour.
Their many scienfic contributions will live for ever.
Paul Ege wrote on March 12, 2017:
I am saddened to hear the news but know that professor Levenspiel will always be among us with his countless contributions and the lives he touched. I was fortunate enough to meet him in person when we arranged a chemical engineering seminar with Norsk Hydro in Norway in 1997. His insight and his person will forever be part of the fond memories in my life.
Paul Ege
Ravichandra Palaparthi wrote on March 11, 2017:
First as a chemical engineering student during early 90's in India, and as a practising chemical engineer for the last ~ 20 years, I am amazed and blown off by Prof. Levenspiel's book on chemical reaction engineering. My only encounter with Prof. Levenspiel in person was when he visited the Chemical Engineering department at the City College of New York around 1996-97 (Prof. Weinstein hosted him) and talked to the graduate students. The one hour or so that he spent talking to all of us is very memorable for me. His humility, down to earth attitude and sense of humor are amazing. I treasure the 'Chemical Reaction Engineering ' book that he personally autographed for me.
David Leigh (formerly Levenspiel) wrote on March 10, 2017:
I was 11years old when I first met my cousin Tavy. It was 1948; just three years after the end of the Second World War. Life was difficult in England, rationing was in force. Following peace in 1945, Tavy had sent us several food parcels packed with food and sweets, then unobtainable in the UK. By distributing strips of gum to my pals, I became the most popular boy in class. Chewing gum during lessons was strictly forbidden and after several miscreants had been caught, an edict was issued that further offenders would be caned. The sentence was firmly carried out on my backside when I was the next offender caught. I have Tavy to thank for this lesson in poetic justice.
Tavy was a young man when he had come to England for the 1948 Olympic Games. You may imagine my excitement when he took me to Wembley Stadium to see GB play India in the men’s final. Imagine my embarrassment when he persisted in shouting ‘farmer’ whenever one of our players missed the ball and dislodged a divot of turf, a rather frequent occurrence as the Indians were by far the better side.
For a young boy like me, Tavy had an almost magical presence reinforced when one morning, having failed to return home on the previous day before the house had been locked for the night, Tavy emerged from our sitting room. It transpired that he had climbed in through the kitchen window, a feat which greatly impressed us all because the window was small and, as we thought, too high to reach without a ladder.
In later years, from letters between our fathers, we learned a little of Tavy’s academic progress and then sometime in the late 1960s I think (I do not remember exactly when) he came to Cambridge (the original one) on sabbatical with MaryJo, Barney, Becky and Morris. It was then that we got to know our American cousin and his happy- go-lucky personality. In 1982 I went with my family to Otter Rock for a most exciting holiday. As well as providing wonderful hospitality, Tavy and MaryJo lent us their camper van and equipment and we toured the West Coast down to LA and back; a never to be forgotten experience.
The Levenspiels were never a family for staying at home and through MaryJo’s genealogical endeavours we came to learn how the clan had spread across the globe. Together with my brothers, Jeffery and Martin, and our wives we attended Tavy and MaryJo’s fiftieth wedding anniversary. It was a joyful occasion at which we met for the first time some members of the wider family. It was also to be the last time that I saw our American cousins. It is much to my regret that time and distance kept us apart.
Mark Rubenstein wrote on March 9, 2017:
Our family lived next-door to the Levenspiels in Evanston in the '50's and 60's. Tavy delighted us by making a coin disappear, chanting what I always thought was "Jatery, Matery, Sickle, Yandy". If he ever told us how he did it, I don't remember.
I can still hear his voice calling, "Lollie, Lollie..." for their dog to come in.
I remember singing "Wu-tzu Pu-tzu" at Christmas-time in their living room. "Lift a glass to friendship!"
I remember Tavy and my dad racing to open their Christmas presents at the same time, seeing that they both got the same Russian hat, and immediately putting them on, donning stern expressions and laughing.
And I remember his smile.
I was too young to know anything about his fascinating life.
But his humor, wit and charm remain in my memory and always will.