AIChE Honors Peter B. Lederman, Chemical Engineer and Humanitarian

Dr. Peter B. Lederman, an AIChE Fellow, past chair of the AIChE Foundation and former director who made extensive humanitarian and leadership contributions to AIChE and the chemical engineering profession across decades, died on June 9, 2020, in New Providence, NJ. He was 88.

A trustee and former chair of the AIChE Foundation, Lederman also served as an AIChE Board Director from 2002–2004, and he held leadership roles in AIChE entities including the Environmental Division, the Government Relations Committee, and the Professional Development Committee. He was also an early advocate for inclusivity in engineering, supporting AIChE programming for women, young professionals and underrepresented engineers. As Chair of the AIChE Foundation, Peter helped shape the Doing a World of Good campaign, built a robust endowment and created new opportunities for women and minority engineers to excel in their careers. Peter was an exemplary leader dedicated to transform, evolve and advance the profession to do more good. The AIChE Foundation has benefited enormously from Peter’s countless contributions, charismatic leadership and lasting impact and legacy of giving back to the next generation of chemical engineers. 

Born in Weimar, Germany, Lederman, along with his parents, survived Kristallnacht and eventually escaped Germany, settling in the U.S. He served in the U.S. army during the Korean War before pursuing his chemical engineering studies at the University of Michigan, where he received his PhD in 1961. 

Over the course of a 50-plus year career in industry, government, and academia, Lederman worked for a breadth of organizations. He began as a chemical engineer at Shell Oil Company and later performing process engineering at Esso Environmental Research Company before moving to Cotrell Environmental Sciences as Vice President for Research. Over the years, he also taught communications as part of a process design curriculum. Appointments in academia included a position as associate professor of chemical engineering at Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn and a lectureship at Columbia Univ.

 

In the 1970s, Lederman worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during its formative years, serving as director of the Industrial Hazardous Waste Treatment Laboratory. He went on to lead the National Academy of Sciences’ committee on the destruction of the U.S. stockpile of chemical weapons. Lederman joined the environmental consulting firm Roy F. Weston in 1980 as vice president of hazardous and toxic substance management, and later directed the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Center for Environmental Engineering, where he retired in 2000. He continued to work as a consultant into the 2010s, testifying before Congress and serving as an expert witness.

AIChE honored Lederman with its Award for Service to Society in recognition of his work on chemical weapon demilitarization. He also received AIChE’s Van Antwerpen Award for Service to the Institute. Lederman was the author of nearly 100 papers and co-author of several patents, and he was a licensed Professional Engineer in 30 states. He remained active in AIChE’s Public Affairs and Information Committee, AIChE’s Minority Affairs Committee (MAC), the Science History Institute’s Heritage Council, and on the New Jersey Dept. of Environmental Protection’s Science Advisory Board until his death.

Lederman is survived by his wife of 62 years, Susan; two children; and three grandchildren.