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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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.
denise priestman wrote on March 9, 2017:
I first met Tavy about 2 months before my 9th birthday when the Levenspiel family moved into the house across the street from us. That whole year is my clearest childhood memory. The 2 families spend a great deal of time together and Tavy did all sorts of fun activities with us kids (7 in total!). Everything about spending time with Tavy was extraordinary and fun - we learned how to play "bloody murders" - our intellect was challenged with "grown - up" conversations - he had a glint in his eye and teased us continually and had the most wonderful laugh - as children he definitely expanded our horizons - and it was just like him to beat his diagnosis of cancer - 1year life expectancy - and live for another 50+ years! He told me if I did not stand up straight I would be round shouldered and those words have definitely come true - if only at 9 you understood the importance of valuable advise instead of ignoring it!! He was full of surprises - not least turning up for my wedding with Mary Jo in 1981 - what a joy and a privilege to have them both there. The whole Levenspiel family were an amazing family to know and and an important part of our lives - we still keep up with the news and it is hard to imagine where these 55 years have gone!!! Tavy has quietly said goodbye and gone to join Barney - and whilst those he leaves behind will have a huge hole to fill - those he has joined will be laughing and enjoying his teasing and those challenging conversations. With lots of love Denise xxxxxx
Linda Kelly ( nee Lilley) wrote on March 8, 2017:
I was around 14 years old when I and my family met Tavy and his lovely family. When they moved to Great Shelford in Cambridge, they rented the house opposite us. Being kind, outgoing and sociable our two families became friends and I, being the eldest of 4 girls got the baby sitting job at the Levenspiels house which I loved!
I remember the children well and have such fond memories of the cheeky Morris and the kindnesss and warmth of Mary Jo and Tavy. Tavy was always smiling and full of fun! My parents kept in touch with them for years and visited them in Oregon. They came to my sister's wedding and we saw them when they were visiting England.
Rest in Peace Tavy. A life well lived.
riley wrote on March 8, 2017:
Let's not forget he played Chinese chess with my father-in-law and won, many a time.
And his favorite foods were simple vegetables and tofu, with a little of meat.
I'll miss him and remember fondly of the time I worked for him.
Enrique Arriola wrote on March 7, 2017:
In many ways I always considered Tavy as my "second father"; he marked me for the rest of my life. Every day, in all my classes I talk to my students about Tavy. I remember most of his “ingenious” phrases when talking to me about God, religions, costumes, opera, foods, Europe, corruption, Thermodynamics, Reactors, you name it! He taught me how to analyze and solve problems (all sort of problems) properly, without prejudices, without fear. I realize that distance, and in some way the language barrier, separated us, but still I kept learning from him. He inspired me in many ways in my life, as a person, teacher, researcher, friend. This is a sad, very sad day. I love you Tavy, thank you for all the good thing you inherited me.
Chuck Smiley wrote on March 6, 2017:
This wonderful man was my favorite uncle. He was always so full of life but what I really loved about him was his ability to treat you as an equal. The all too few times I had the privilege to be in his company will be remembered for his unique ability to entertain me with his knowledge about almost everything in a very humbling way. Aunt Mary Joe, Bekki, Morris, and all of your family. I am so sorry for your loss. A great man has just passed. I love you all. Chuck
Ray Cocco wrote on March 6, 2017:
My first contact with Octave was through his books, specifically "The Chemical Reactor Omnibook." Most chemical engineers new him this way first. My second contact was with a week long workshop on reaction engineering. He did not just teach concepts. He taught us how to think like an engineer. He showed us how to distill a complex problem to understandable and trackable solutions which is the heart of engineering. He was remarkably good. It was an art form. He made it look easy, but the genius was in the details. It is one of the reasons his name is one of the most recognized name in chemical engineering. For many of us, Levenspiel is synonymous to chemical engineering. Even in his later years, he could still silence and part a room with his entrance into a conference venue. He will be missed and never forgotten.
Shelly Seaton wrote on March 6, 2017:
I worked with Tavy at the chemical engineering office at OSU. What an incredible man! He had me take his quizzes, even though I had no engineering background at all. He said that if I could get the logic right, his students had no room to argue!
My son read Tavy's article on Quetzalcoatlus and tried to manipulate conditions so that his created pteradon (named Bruce) could actually lift off. It won him second place at the science fair!
Working with Tavy was truly one of the highlights of my life! He was such a joyful and curious person, with a wicked sense of humor. And, oh, his stories! My thoughts go out to Mary Jo and the family.
John Berg wrote on March 5, 2017:
Professor Levenspiel was a giant in Chemical Engineering education. What was unique was the joy he put into it. I am privileged to have known him as a colleague in the profession and as a friend.
Holly Short wrote on March 5, 2017:
Ah Tavy. How can I write about what he meant to me. I met Bekki in 1971 and spent so many wonderful hours being part of her family in my high school and college years. Tavy was bigger than life. I knew that he was a highly respected intelligent man, but what I saw was his rye sense of humor and his numerous stories that made me laugh. Both he and Mary Jo were a strong influence in my becoming a young lady and I am forever grateful.
Sending all my love to Mary Jo, Bekki, Morris, and the boys.
Holly Short (Smith)