Joan Berkowitz

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Joan B. Berkowitz (born March 13, 1931) is an American chemist.


Born in Brooklyn, New York, Berkowitz attended PS 42, John Marshall Junior High School, and Midwood High School. She created a science project analyzing weather maps from the New York Times to study the movement of weather patterns. She earned a scholarship to Swarthmore College and graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a BA in 1952. At Swarthmore she published her first paper, "The Preparation of trans 4-chlorocyclohexanol".[1]

She wished to follow her high school boyfriend and fellow Swarthmore graduate Arthur Mattuck to Princeton University, but at the time Princeton did not accept women for graduate school in chemistry. Instead she attended the University of Illinois at Urbana, graduating with a PHD in physical chemistry in 1955. Her dissertation was "Studies on Electrolytes", which focused on the application of the Poisson–Boltzmann equation to polymeric electrolytes. She used ILLIAC I, an early computer, for the numerical solutions. From 1955 to 1957 she was a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at Yale University studying polymeric electrolytes. In 1959, she married Mattuck, who at that point had become a professor of mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They divorced in 1977.[1]

In 1959 she joined the consulting firm of Arthur D. Little, where she would spend over two decades. Her early work at the firm concerned high-temperature oxidation and materials for the space program, focusing on the transition metals molybdenum, tungsten, and zirconium. She developed reusable molds from molybdenum disilicides and tungsten disilicides that were used in spacecraft construction.[1][2]

In the 1970s her work concerned environmental matters. She headed a team which created the two volume Physical, Chemical and Biological Treatment Techniques for Industrial Wastes (1976), a survey of manufactured goods and their potential for causing pollution. She examined limestone scrubbers that removed sulfur dioxide, demonstrated how to reduce hard deposits which hindered their effectiveness, and improved their design. She also studied the disposal of hazardous wastes in landfills and produced the first handbook on alternative disposal methods.[1][3] In 1979 she became the first female president of The Electrochemical Society.[4] By the 1980s she was a vice president and later head of the Environmental Business World Wide section at A.D. Little.[1]

In 1986 she left A.D. Little to become CEO of Risk Science International. In 1989 she co-founded with Allen Farkas the consulting firm Farkas Berkowitz & Company.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Klarreich, Susan (1993). "Joan Berkowitz". In Grinstein, Louise S.; Rose, Rose K.; Rafailovich, Miriam H. Women in Chemistry and Physics: A Biobibliographic Sourcebook. Greenwood Press. pp. 50–56. 
  2. ^ "Joan B. Berkowitz." Notable Scientists from 1900 to the Present. Ed. Brigham Narins. Detroit: Gale Group, 2008. Gale Biography In Context. Web. July 7, 2011.
  3. ^ "Sylvia M. Stoesser Lectures in Chemistry: Joan B. Berkowitz". Department of Chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 2010. Retrieved July 7, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Chemistry in History: Joan Berkowitz". Chemical Heritage Society. 2010. Retrieved July 7, 2011. 

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