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In memory of Emeritus Professor Rudolf Prince AO

20 July 2017
Celebrating the life of a chemical engineering legend

We are saddened by news of the passing of Emeritus Professor Rudolf Prince (2 August 1928 – 3 July 2017). For more than five decades Professor Prince had been a leader, colleague and friend of the Faculty of Engineering and IT.

Emeritus Professor Rudolf Prince AO

Professor Rudolf Prince challenged and encouraged us to continually improve our education and research practices to meet the needs of our industry and country. He will be missed by all of us in the faculty and the University of Sydney.

Professor Prince was born in Chemnitz, Germany in 1928. He moved to Italy in 1936 with his mother and sister when the family split up. In 1938 they moved to England and then New Zealand, where he was educated at Christchurch Boys High School. He then studied chemical engineering and chemistry at Canterbury University College, graduating in 1949.

While Professor Prince's career spanned the globe, he always returned to the University of Sydney. He first came to the University in 1950 as a lecturer in chemical engineering. A few years later, he travelled to the UK to work for a distiller as a process engineer in their Research and Development Department in Epsom, Surrey. He also lectured at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch and the University of Queensland, Brisbane. In 1969 he returned to the University of Sydney, this time as aprofessor and Head of Department.

The two main fields that distinguished Professor Prince's influential 65-year career are distillation column design and computer simulation of chemical processes – the latter at a time when the University's only computer filled a room, required its own air-conditioning system and took an entire weekend to solve a single problem.

His contribution to our student's learning experience was significant and continues to resonate throughout the curriculum today. With an understanding of the importance of experiential learning through industry, Professor Prince pioneered the University's industrial experience program, laying the foundation for today's MIPPS scheme.

Professor Prince established a practice lab for first-year students. At the time female students seemed reluctant to pursue chemical engineering, thinking that their male counterparts had the advantage of growing up with more hands-on experience. In the new lab, students could see that everyone faced the same challenges, regardless of gender. Professor Prince's first-year labs not only gave more confidence to students in their early years, but also played a large role in encouraging gender diversity in the chemical engineering discipline.