The University of Arizona

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By Janis Leibold, June 3, 1999

David Kingery, "Father of Modern Ceramics"

W. David Kingery, Regents Professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson, died June 29 in Wickford, R.I., of heart failure. He was 74.

Kingery, whose career spanned more than 50 years, is widely recognized as the 20th century's most influential figure in ceramics education, research and technology.

He is often called "the father of modern ceramics" because his research led to the modern application of ceramics to oxygen sensors, fuel cells and a vast array of electronic components. His seminal text on the subject, "Introduction to Ceramics," has been translated in the world's major languages and is recognized as the bible of ceramic materials science.

In recent years, Kingery had concentrated on ceramics in archaeology, studying the development and diffusion of ceramic techniques. He had a joint appointment at UA in the anthropology and the materials science and engineering departments.

He was chairperson of the Program on Culture, Science, Technology and Society at the University of Arizona, which he joined in 1988. Prior to that, he had been Regents Fellow at the Smithsonian Institution and Visiting Professor at Johns Hopkins University for one year. Before that he was the Kyocera Professor of Ceramics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he had been on the faculty since 1951.

His international reputation and high standing among his colleagues is reflected in the many prizes and honors he received throughout his career. Most recently, he was awarded the 1999 Kyoto Prize in Advanced Technology, Japan's highest private award for human achievement. He was one of three Kyoto Prize laureates in 1999 and received a Kyoto Prize Medal and a cash gift of approximately $400,000.

In 1998 the W. David Kingery Prize was established in his honor by the American Ceramic Society. It recognizes "distinguished lifelong achievements involving multidisciplinary and cross-cultural contributions to ceramic technology, science, education, and art."

Kingery, who was a member of the National Academy of Engineering, was the first recipient of the award.

He wrote more than 200 papers that shaped the course of ceramic science and technology through pioneering work in areas such as thermal properties, liquid phase sintering, oxygen ion conductors, defects and transport and grain boundary phenomena.

His recent books include "Japanese/American Technological Innovation," "History of Things," "Physical Ceramics" and "Learning from Things."

"His passing leaves a great void in the hearts of all whose lives he touched _ his family, his colleagues, his friends and his current and former students," said Joseph Simmons, department head in materials science and engineering. "Professor Kingery was a great man of our time, and he leaves many rich and happy memories with us all."

Tom Peterson, dean of the College of Engineering and Mines at UA said, "David was truly a renaissance man. He reached the pinnacle of his profession technically, but prided himself most on his activities at the boundaries between materials engineering and culture, art and anthropology."

A memorial service will be held in Tucson at a date yet to be announced.

Additional information on W. David Kingery is online.