Honoring a Wisconsin materials science visionary

Posted on 25. Jul, 2014 by in Academic Departments, Features, Gift Report, Issues, Materials Science and Engineering, People, Research, Students

Richard (Arthur) Dodd understood the future of materials science before just about anyone else at UW-Madison.

Arthur Dodd

Arthur Dodd

The English-born Dodd arrived on campus in 1959 as an associate professor of mining and metallurgy, having previously served in engineering roles in industry and academic roles in South Africa and the University of Pennsylvania. Beginning in the late 1960s, Dodd helped lead the effort to assemble a multidisciplinary materials science committee at UW-Madison. The idea was a bold one in leadership terms: Dodd had to persuade faculty from the university’s already prominent chemistry and physics departments to form new collaborative connections with engineering departments. Just as importantly, Dodd anticipated how the materials field would change over the ensuing decades.

Dodd passed away in 2011, but his efforts still resonate profoundly on campus today. In fall 2013, the department awarded its first-ever Arthur Dodd scholarships. Each semester, the scholarships will provide about $500 each to two MS&E undergrads. Endowed in Dodd’s memory by his wife, Marie Dodd, the scholarship also honors the many ways in which Dodd helped create a strong foundation for all UW-Madison materials scientists.

In the late ‘60s, “materials” at UW mostly meant focusing on materials processing, which was important to the state’s heavy industries, says MS&E Visiting Professor James Clum, one of Dodd’s contemporaries. “That was not the best place to continue to focus, because the national trend was to go into a multidisciplinary approach to materials behavior,” Clum says, adding that Dodd was at that time one of very few UW-Madison researchers working in such areas as creep and corrosion.

Dodd’s prescience has only become more clear in recent years, as UW-Madison plays a key role in a nationwide effort to discover and develop new materials. As the materials science program grew from a committee into a full-fledged academic program, of which Dodd served as chair, Dodd took the initiative to pull together researchers from many different areas whose work touched upon materials. “There was a lot of debate about how the program was going to interact with the existing departments, especially our strong chemistry and physics departments,” Clum says. “It speaks very highly of Arthur’s ability to negotiate and deal with a wide range of people. His major focus in everything he did was to be facilitator and to try and get things moving in the right direction.”

Dodd’s colleagues remember him as a consummate Englishman—reserved, dry-witted, drawn to hobbies such as bridge, golf and fly-fishing. But his passion for helping

students succeed showed through clearly, and in fact he kept on teaching undergraduate courses well into his 80s. “He was very active as a mentor,” Clum says. “He was very helpful to all the students, and they benefited greatly from his ability to teach them.”

That passion and work ethic help explain how Dodd was able to help UW-Madison become a crucial and forward-looking force in materials research. “Wisconsin was at that time behind the curve in those areas, and now it’s well-respected,” Clum says.

Tags: , , , , ,

Comments are closed.