PULLMAN, Wash. Researcher and professor Thomas Graedel was honored with the Washington State University Alumni Association Alumni Achievement Award on April 28. Graedel was honored for his exceptional accomplishments in industrial ecology and sustainability, which has led the way in a revolutionary approach to industrial practice.
Graedel’s research career has been widely varied, including research in solar physics, chemical kinetic modeling of gases and droplets in the Earth’s atmosphere, corrosion of materials by atmospheric species, atmospheric change, and industrial ecology and sustainability science. He has authored 13 books and more than 300 technical papers. Long before climate change and sustainability were part of the American consciousness, Graedel was conducting pioneering research in the field.
A 1960 graduate of the WSU College of Engineering and Architecture (BS in chemical engineering), he is thought to be the first professor of industrial ecology in the world.
Graedel began his career with the AT&T Bell Laboratories. In 1996, he left Bell Labs to become the Clifton R. Musser Professor of Industrial Ecology at Yale University, a position he holds today.
In 1979, Graedel, along with Jean McRae of Bell Labs, began work demonstrating that urban carbon dioxide data mimicked the trends seen in remote areas. This was followed by work showing that methane and carbon monoxide from human activities were contributing to the warming of the Earth. In the mid-1990s Graedel, along with Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen, wrote “Atmosphere, Climate and Change,” which won the American Meteorological Society’s Louis J. Battan Author’s Award in 1995.
Since 1990 Graedel’s interests have been focused on industrial ecology and sustainability. He is the senior author of the text “Industrial Ecology,” the first text in this newly emerging area. He is also the senior author of four other related texts. His environmental assessment matrix, developed while assessing AT&T products, is now a standard industrial tool for streamlined life cycle assessment of the environmental impacts of products, processes, and facilities.
The true impact of his work can be seen in the degree to which his publications are cited by others. As of the end of 2005, Graedel’s papers and books have been cited more than 3,900 times. This places his citation record in the top third of one percent of all active scientists.
His impact can also be judged by the honors he has received, including being named as a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering.
The Alumni Achievement Award is the highest honor bestowed by the WSU Alumni Association. Since its conception, WSU has awarded 483 alumni.