letter from an alumnus about teaching students about toxic waste and
safe waste disposal
May 15, 2002
As I approach my 50th reunion, I would like to share
the credit for a significant contribution to society with Princeton and
in particular with the Department of Chemical Engineering. This not been
made public before. I consider this my best gift to my beloved country
and to "Princeton in the nation's service."
In 1979 the nation and myself, working as a process
design chemical engineer, were greatly concerned with waste pollution.
One evening, after watching a TV program on toxic waste dumping in New
Jersey, I decided to act. I contacted one of my professors at Princeton
(Dr. Richard Toner) by phone to find out if courses in toxic waste identification
and disposal were in the curriculum, and he told me that none were being
taught at Princeton, and as far as he knew there were none in any other
I then sent a letter to Congressman James Florio,
(enclosed) who was chairman of the Congressional Subcommitee on Transportation
and Commerce, which was in charge of Superfund legislation. The essence
of the letter is stated here, "That all students in chemical engineering
and chemistry should be required to take a one semester course in toxic
waste identification and methods of safe waste disposal. Then, in their
professional lives they could no longer in good conscience ignore the
consequences of inaction when this issue came to the table in their work."
For this idea I received a citation from Congress
(enclosed). My letter also became part of the Superfund Congressional
Record. I was told by Florio's committee that Congress does not participate
in forming college curricula.
I then wrote to the American Institute of Chemical Engineers,
informing them of this idea and my contacts with Congress (enclosed).
The head of their Education and Accreditation Committee, Dr. George Burnet,
at Iowa State University, thought that my idea was a good one, and promulgated
it at upcoming meetings of his committee. Shortly after this, courses
in waste pollution control started to appear in college curricula all
over the U.S.
Franklin B. Horowitz '55
April 9, 1979
Hon. James Florio
U. S. House of Representatives
Washington, D. C. 20515
Dear Mr. Florio:
On March 29, 1979, 1 watched a program on TV Channel 7 at 10 p.m.
The name of the show was "The Killing Ground", and the content
was a documentary on the dangers of pollution by illegal disposal of liquid
wastes. They showed how toxic wastes in 55 gallon drums are trucked to
land sites and allowed to leak into the ground.
I am a chemical engineer, Princeton '55 and Brooklyn Polytech '63. The
TV program stirred my conscience to try to do something to stop the pollution
of our land.
The idea that I came up with was to do it through education, in our colleges,
by requiring or encouraging, by public law or incentives, that all students'enrolled
in Chemical Engineering or Chemistry take a one semester course in the
identification of toxic substances and their health hazards, and the application
and design of pollution control systems for the safe dispo~al of hazardous
When I was in college this subject was not in the curriculum. Last week
I contacted Prof. Richard Toner, (Chem. Engr. Dept) at Princeton. He told
me that they still do not have such a course, but that it was a worthwhile
idea. The effect of such a course would be far-reaching, since these are
the principles that professionals, such as myself, who design and operate
chemical plants carry throughout our lives. Obviously, it is not possible
to clean up the present mess with education, but I am looking toward the
future. Nobody that graduates in these disciplines would be able to say
that they are unaware of the dangers of toxic wastes, or the methods to
treat them safely. Industry is starting to act, due mainly to the prodding
of government. Formal training would add the dimension of the conscience
and intellect of the individual, two of mankind's most powerful tools.
On Friday, April 6, 1979, 1 had a phone conversation concerning the above,
with your Assistant, Shelia Brown, who was most kind and helpful.
If there is anything more that I can do in this area, please let me know.
I am willing to cooperate on a volunteer basis.
Franklin B. Horowitz
Mr. Franklin B. Horowitz
143 Hoyt Street, Apt. 3H
Stamford, Connecticut 06905
Dear Mr. Horowitz:
Thank. you for your letter regarding the need for education
in the identification of toxic substances and problems relating to the
safe disposal of hazardous wastes.
I agree with your view that education is an essential component to a successful
program of identification of toxic substances and the safe disposal of
hazardous wastes. As you may know, the House Subcommittee on Transportation
and Commerce, of which I am Chairman, has recently held hearings on the
Resource and Conservation Recovery Act and the Hazardous Materials Transportation
Act. These hearings addressed the encompassing issues of hazardous substances,
hazardous wastes, and toxic substances.
Your thoughts are, indeed, insightful. Your suggestion of requiring or
encouraging students of Chemical Engineering or Chemistry to take a course
in the identification of toxic substances and their health hazards, and
the application and design of pollution control systems for the safe disposal
of hazardous wastes has merit. I believe an increased awareness of these
problems could have far reaching benefits for society.
Once again, thank you for expressing your thoughts and concerns to me.
If any new developments arise from your efforts, if you hear of any such
development, or if I may be of assistance, please feel free to contact
James J. Florio, Chairman
Subcommittee on Transportation and Commerce
Congress of the United States
October 25, 1979
Franklin B. Horowitz
143 Hoyt St. Apt. 3H
Stanford, CT 06905
Dear Mr. Horowitz:
This is in response to your letter of October 8, 1979 in which you suggested
that steps be taken to establish a required course in chemical engineering
and chemistry curricula in all colleges in the United States to teach
the identification of toxic substances and the design of pollution control
systems. You also kindly enclosed copies of your correspondence with Congressman
James J. Florio. While I cannot respond in an official way for the American
Institute of Chemical Engineers (AlChE) I would like to comment on the
points you have raised.
There is a felt and agreed upon need for the type of instruction you are
proposing. As a chemical engineer, you are undoubtedly aware of the recently
developed Dynamic Objectives of the AIChE. One of the Dynamic Objectives
deals with education and calls for the reintroduction of industrial chemistry
to the undergraduate chemical engineering curriculum. It would seem that
the type of instruction you are proposing would help satisfy this need.
Responsibility for initiating actions to meet this objective has been
assigned to the AIChE Education and Accreditation Committee of which I
am chairman. We are now working with the Committee on Professional Training
(chaired by Dr. H. S. Mosher, Stanford University) of the American Chemical
Society since we feel that instruction in industrial chemistry will be
of value to both chemistry and chemical engineering students. I will see
that your thoughts and those of Congressman J. J. Florio, as mentioned
in his letter to you of June 15, 1979, are brought to the attention of
those working on this assignment.
In your letter you mentioned the need for students to be familiar with
the design of pollution control systems. The accrediting agency for engineering
programs in the United States, the Engineers' Council for Professional
Development, has recently restated its definition of engineering design
to include a more applied emphasis. In design courses we now find our
students working on case studies and receiving instruction from individuals
from industry who are assisting as adjunct faculty. The design problems
deal not only with technical matters but with the social, legal, economic,
and other related topics. This is another place in engineering curricula
where problems that deal with hazardous wastes and toxic substances can
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this timely subject with me. Your
ideas will prove helpful and the results should be evident in the responses
to the AIChE Dynamic Objective on education.
Chairman, E&A Committee
American Institute of Chemical Engineers