Cheltenham High School Hall of Fame

previous   |   back to index   |   next

 

Peter S. Eagleson, ScD

class of 1945
inducted in 1999

Peter S. Eagleson, ScD

Scientist & Educator
"The Father of Scientific Hydrology"

Peter Eagleson, Professor Emeritus of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has been called the father of scientific hydrology. The field of hydrology, once considered merely an engineering discipline with only local applications, has been established by Eagleson's work as a rigorous science of global scope and significance. His influential work has drawn upon such varied scientific disciplines as fluid dynamics, climatology, geology, ecology, chemistry, and statistics.

The day after his graduation from
Cheltenham in 1945, Eagleson began his studies at Lehigh University. Participating in the wartime accelerated program, Eagleson received his B.S. in civil engineering in February 1949. Immediately following his graduation, Eagleson, an Advanced ROTC cadet at Lehigh, was called for active duty in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in which he served as a 2nd Lieutenant in a construction battalion in Okinawa. Three months after his discharge, the Korean War began.

Following a brief stint working with a consulting engineer in
Glenside, PA, Eagleson decided to continue his education. Says Eagleson, "I knew that the theory rather than the practice of engineering was what interested me." Eagleson returned to Lehigh University for his graduate studies to discover that the only available assistant teaching position was in the area of civil engineering known as hydraulics (the study of the flow of liquids through pipes and channels). Up to this point, Eagleson's student status had kept him from active duty in the Korean War. By the time he completed his Master of Science, the choice was, he says,"either go fight in Korea or go on for a Ph.D." Fortunately for the world of science, Eagleson continued his studies at the new Hydrodynamics Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Eagleson completed his doctorate in 1956, studying the mechanics of fluid flow and its application to irrigation systems and harbors.

It was in the 1960's that Eagleson began the work that would bring him renown. At that time, hydrology was thought of as an engineering discipline, a method of understanding the behavior of water in a specific region over a short period of time. Eagleson broke new ground by treating hydrology as a rigorous science which studying the interrelation of the whole world's water usage. He incorporated many of his new ideas into his textbook Dynamic Hydrology (1970), considered one of the great works on the subject to this day.

Eagleson has held such important positions as:

Edmund K. Turner Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, MIT, 1984-1993
Head, Department of Civil Engineering, MIT, 1970-1975
President, American Geophysical Union, 1986-1988
He has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the 1991 International Hydrology Prize and the 1992 James R. Killian Jr. Faculty Achievement Award, recognizing extraordinary professional accomplishments and service to MIT. In 1997 Eagleson was awarded the Stockholm Water Prize, an international award honoring outstanding contributions in the field of water conservation. The $150,000 Water Prize was presented to Eagleson by King Carl XVI Gustav of
Sweden.

Says Eagleson of his work: "To me these problems have an intrinsic beauty which transcends their enormous importance to the provision of society's water. I feel privileged to have been paid to work on their solution. Since I couldn't hit a curve ball, there is nothing I would rather have done with my life."

Since his retirement from teaching in 1993, Eagleson has worked to integrate hydrology with Darwinian ecology. He is married to Beverly Grossman, 45 and has three children from a previous marriage.