William Hammack Named 2020 Hoover Medalist

Bill Hammack, the William H. and Janet G. Lycan Professor in the Dept. of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been selected to receive the 2020 Hoover Medal. The prize commemorates the civic and humanitarian achievements of an engineer whose professional and personal endeavors have advanced the well-being of humankind. Hammack is slated to receive the Medal at a gathering of AIChE to be held in the coming year.

Established in 1929, the Hoover Medal is administered by a board representing five engineering organizations: AIChE, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers (AIME), and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

Bringing engineering to the public

As an engineer, Hammack’s mission over the past 20 years has been to inform the public about engineering and science. His media work explaining fundamental science and its application through engineering — from his work in public radio to his pioneering use of internet-delivered videos as the “Engineer Guy” — has been listened to or viewed more than 50 million times.

Hammack earned his BS at Michigan Technological Univ. and his MS and PhD at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, all in chemical engineering. He taught at Carnegie Mellon Univ. for a decade before returning to the Univ. of Illinois in 1999.

Among many honors, Hammack received AIChE’s Award for Service to Society and recently received the Council of Scientific Presidents’ Carl Sagan Award for the Appreciation of Science. In 2020, he was also awarded ASME’s Ralph Coats Roe Medal for outstanding contribution toward a better public understanding and appreciation of the engineer’s worth to contemporary society.

Hammack is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Society for the Advancement of Science.


Photo: L. Brian Stauffer, Univ. of Illinois