Science History Institute Mourns Loss of Board Member Peter Lederman

A longtime member of the Institute’s board of directors, the award-winning chemical engineer passed away June 9, 2020, at the age of 88.

Peter B. Lederman had a long association with the Science History Institute, serving on the board of directors as a representative of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) from 2007 to 2013. He was on the board’s audit committee and took over as chair in 2009. He continued as the committee’s co-chair even after leaving the board in 2014. In 2018, he rejoined as a member at large. He joined the Institute’s Heritage Council in 2015, also as a member at large, and continued his service until the time of his death.

Born in Weimar, Germany, in 1931, Lederman lived briefly in the Netherlands after his father lost his position with the German regional government because of anti-Jewish laws. The family eventually settled in the United States. Lederman served in the army during the Korean conflict (1953–1955). He then received a commission in the U.S. Navy Reserve, in the Research Reserve Component, before retiring with the rank of lieutenant commander in 1975.

Lederman studied at the University of Michigan and received his PhD in chemical engineering in 1961. He worked for Shell Oil Company in 1953 before becoming an instructor at the U.S. Army Petroleum School later that year. He was a lecturer at the University of Michigan from 1955 to 1960. In 1961 he took a position as a chemical engineer at the Esso Environmental Research Company, moving up to senior process engineer two years later. During that time he was also a lecturer at Columbia University, followed by a position as associate professor of chemical engineering at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (now part of New York University) from 1966 to 1972.

He worked at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency while it was in its infancy, as director of its Industrial Hazardous Waste Treatment Laboratory. He also headed the National Academy of Sciences committee on the destruction of the U.S. stockpile of chemical weapons. In 1976 Lederman joined Research-Cottrell as director of research development, later becoming vice president and general manager of Cottrell Environmental Sciences in 1978. In 1980 he moved to Roy F. Weston, a large environmental engineering firm, as its vice president of hazardous and toxic substance management and vice president/division general manager. He held this role until 1993, when he became the director of the Center for Environmental Engineering at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, retiring in 2000. He talked in depth about his life and career during an oral history interview in 2011 and worked as a consultant until 2012.

Lederman authored more than 90 papers, coauthored several patents, and was a licensed professional engineer. He was also honored by the EPA (Silver Medal for Superior Service), AIChE (Service to Society Award), the University of Michigan College of Engineering (Distinguished Alumni Award), the National Academies, and the Academy of Environmental Engineers.Lederman is survived by his wife, two children, and three granddaughters.

Above: Peter Lederman speaks at the 2015 Spring AIChE Fellows Breakfast. Photo by Callie Richmond.


June 12, 2020