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Obituary: Reuel Shinnar

Reuel Shinnar

City College Professor, Expert on Chemical Process Design and Control, Israeli Defense Industry Pioneer.

Dr. Reuel Shinnar, distinguished professor emeritus of chemical engineering at the Grove School of Engineering at The City College of New York and a founder of the Israeli munitions industry, died Aug. 19, 2011. He was 87.

A resident of Great Neck, Professor Shinnar joined the City College engineering faculty in 1964 and also trained doctoral students as a member of the CUNY Graduate Center faculty. In 1979, he was promoted to distinguished professor. Six years later, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. In 1992, he received the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Founders Award. He retired from teaching in 2007 and became distinguished professor emeritus that year.

A prolific researcher, who published more than 100 papers during his career and holds 16 patents, including one granted in June 2011, Professor Shinnar was widely recognized for his work on design methodologies and control of chemical processes. The fluidized catalytic cracking process he developed helped reduce the cost of manufacturing gasoline, noted Dr. Alexander Couzis, chair of the Grove School of Engineering chemical engineering department.

Professor Shinnar maintained an active consulting practice outside the classroom working for numerous companies in the energy and chemical industries. “There wasn’t a plant built in recent years by Mobil Oil (now Exxon Mobil) whose design Reuel wasn’t involved in,” Professor Couzis said.

In 2006, Professor Shinnar and a graduate student, Francesco Citro, published A Road Map to U.S. Decarbonization which showed how, with an annual investment of $200 billion per year, alternative energy sources could replace 70 percent of U.S. fossil fuel consumption within 30 years. In addition, he had a wide range of interests and published seminal papers in fields as diverse as criminology and economics.

After retiring from teaching Professor Shinnar remained an active researcher, earning patents in 2010 and 2011 for methods and/or systems to store energy in nuclear power plants, combined cycle power plants and concentrated solar power plants. The day before his death, the U.S. Department of Energy notified him that the grant that supported his work had been renewed. Dr. Jeffrey Morris, Grove School professor of chemical engineering, will assume the leadership of that work at City College, Professor Couzis said.

Reuel Shinnar was born Sept. 15, 1923 in Wiener Neustadt, Austria. His parents sent him and two younger sisters to Sweden in a Kindertransport after the Nazis annexed Austria in 1938. In 1941, he traveled by train through the Soviet Union and Turkey to the future state of Israel, where he enrolled in Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology, even though the Nazis expelled him from high school before he could earn a diploma. He earned an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from Technion in 1945 and a master’s degree in 1947.

After graduation from Technion, he became a founding member of Israel Military Industries, rising to become chief engineer, a position he held from 1957 to 1962. His time with the munitions concern was interrupted by a three-year sabbatical during which he came to the United States and earned a Ph.D. at Columbia University.

Professor Shinnar returned to the United States in 1962 as a visiting research fellow with Guggenheim Jet Laboratories at Princeton University. Two years later, he joined the CCNY faculty and moved to New York.

He is survived by his wife, Dr. Mildred Green Shinnar, two sons from a previous marriage: Dr. Shlomo Shinnar, MD, Ph.D., of New Rochelle, a professor of neurology, pediatrics and epidemiology at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine; and Dr. Meir Shinnar, MD, Ph,D,, of Teaneck, NJ, a professor of clinical medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center; six grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren, and a sister, Ruth Matar, who lives in Israel. His first wife, Miryam, died in 2000.