October 7, 2008

In Memory of Former TMS President Kenneth J. Richards, 1932-2008

By Anonymous

Editor's Note: This tribute was adapted from a submission by J. Brent Hiskey, University of Arizona. In May, Kenneth Richards, retired vice president of Kerr-McGee Corporation and former president of its Technology and Engineering Division, passed away at the age of 75. A senior member of TMS, Richards joined the society in 1963 and served as president in 1981.

Richards earned a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Utah in 1955 and then worked as a process engineer with Union Oil Company and Fractionation Research Incorporated and as a development engineer with the U.S. Intelligence Agency in the area of rare earth production and separation. He then went on to earn a Ph.D. in metallurgical engineering from the University of Utah. Upon graduation, he served as a captain in the U.S. Air Force at the Aerospace Research Laboratory, working in the Metals and Ceramic Division. In 1967, Richards joined Kennecott Copper Corporation in Salt Lake City, Utah, as a senior scientist. He was promoted to director of R&D in 1974 and vice president of process technology in 1979.

Richards was instrumental in the first commercial installation of a distributed digital control system for copper smelting. He was the principal inventor of the solid matte-oxygen converting process, which represented a notable advancement in copper smelting practice and provided the impetus for nextand future-generation copper smelting. He moved to Oklahoma City in 1984 to become president of the Technology and Engineering Division of Kerr-McGee Corporation and remained there until his retirement in 1994.

After retiring, Richards formed a successful consulting practice and served as assistant secretary of commerce for technology for the state of Oklahoma. In this position, he brought extensive experience in the areas of research and technology management, process and production development, and technology transfer. He was respected internationally for his contributions to extractive metallurgy and his pioneering efforts in advanced copper smelting processing, and his colleagues knew him as someone who could integrate technology and business with uncommon skill. He was a mentor to many young engineers.

Copyright Minerals, Metals & Materials Society Sep 2008

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