Carnegie Mellon Awards Science Prize to WSU’s John Hirth

PULLMAN, Wash. — John Price Hirth, Battelle Distinguished Professor of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Washington State University, will receive the Carnegie Mellon University Dickson Prize for Science for his outstanding contributions in the field of materials science. He is being presented the award at his invited lecture about “Defects in Crystals” on April 10.
His lifetime achievements include research at the atomic level of metals, ceramics, alloys and other such modern building blocks of today’s semiconductor, aerospace and structural materials industries, as well as a distinguished teaching career.
Hirth’s research provides fundamental understanding of structural defects as materials transform from one state to another (solid to liquid to gas, etc.). It identifies the mechanisms and underlying atomic activity that cause defects, fracture and embrittlement of high-performance materials.
“Professor Hirth is a highly accomplished member of the nationwide materials science and engineering community, and we at Carnegie Mellon are pleased to extend to him this well-deserved honor,” said Anthony Rollett, head of CM’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering. Hirth earned his doctor’s degree from Carnegie Mellon in 1958, and taught on its MSE faculty from 1958-61. The Dickson Prize honors the late Dr. and Mrs. Joseph Z. Dickson of Pittsburgh and is annually awarded to someone who has made outstanding contributions to science.
Hirth is known chiefly for his work on the theory of dislocation, or defects in the crystalline structures of solids; and hydrogen trapping and hydrogen embrittlement of high-performance steels, a serious problem in materials engineering. He also is well known for his theoretical work on evaporation and condensation activity on solids, and has helped define the kinetics of solid-state phase transformations.
His authoritative position in the field of crystal imperfections is epitomized by his textbook (co-authored with Jens Lothe) “Theory of Dislocations,” published in 1967 and updated in 1982. He also has written or co-authored 419 technical articles and another book. For more than two decades, he was editor-in-chief of Scripta Metallurgica et Materialia. Hirth’s reviewers say his papers are invariably marked by elegant mathematical analysis and interpretations that often draw upon several disciplines.
As a professor, Hirth has taught solid state physics, dislocation theory, crystal plasticity, and thermodynamics, among other subjects. At WSU, he received Outstanding Teacher awards from the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering in 1989 and 1990. In 1992, he received the college’s highest award for outstanding research.
“He knows his subject, and his teaching is superb,” said Stephen Antolovich, director of WSU’s MME. “Students like working with him because his research addresses questions that are scientifically interesting and technically important.” Hirth has advised almost 100 graduate students.
To celebrate his four decades as an academic scientist, Hirth will be honored by WSU May 30 at his formal retirement dinner — although he will continue teaching and research at WSU on 40 percent time. His professional affiliations will recognize his accomplishments next February at a national symposium.
In a self-effacing manner, Hirth responds to the accolades by crediting his “collaborators at Ohio State, Battelle and WSU,” and characterizes the accomplishments as “the work of the greater community.”


John P Hirth — five decades of footprints:
— 1953, received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in metallurgical engineering from Ohio State University
— 1958, earned doctor’s degree from Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University), and taught on its MSE faculty from 1958-61.
— 1961-88, taught at Ohio State 27 years and received an honorary doctor of science degree in 1995, the Lamme Meritorious Achievement award in 1993, was named a Presidential Professor in 1987, and earned the distinguished Research Award in 1979.
— 1974, induction into the National Academy of Engineering
— 1982, Matthewson Gold Medalist from AIME;
— 1989, the A.E. White Awardee from American Society of Metals International and the Acta Metallurgica Gold Medal;
— 1988-present, joint WSU/Battelle position as WSU professor and Distinguished Scientific Fellow at Battelle’s Pacific Northwest Laboratory, allowing him to work with scientists in Richland, where he has been a technical adviser for the Battelle Memorial Institute for 38 years
— Intermittently — held visiting terms at Stanford, Harvard and Oslo (Norway) universities, Colorado School of Mines, and the University of Mexico
— 1992, inducted into the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters
— 1994, inducted into the National Academy of Sciences, one of only three WSU faculty members to so belong, and became Gold Medalist for the American Society of Metals
— 1997, awarded Carnegie Mellon Dickson Prize for Science

Hirth can be reached at 509/335-4971, email Photo available.