Roger W. H. Sargent

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Prof. Roger Sargent

Roger William Herbert Sargent FREng[1] FSA (14 October 1926 – 11 September 2018) was an English chemical engineer who was Courtaulds professor of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London [2] and "the father" of the discipline of Process Systems Engineering.


Born on 14 October 1926, Sargent was educated at Bedford School and at Imperial College London where he was awarded a BSc and PhD in chemical engineering. He worked for Air Liquide in Paris as a practising engineer until 1959 when he returned to the UK and subsequently joined Imperial College as a lecturer. He describes those war years and post-war France in his address to Edinburgh University.[3] His career advanced quickly and he was Courtaulds Professor of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London between 1966 and 1992, Dean of the City and Guilds College from 1973 to 1976, head of the Department of Chemical Engineering from 1975 to 1988 and director of the Centre for Process Systems Engineering (which he founded) from its launch in August 1989 until he retired in 1992, when he became a senior research fellow and emeritus professor in the centre and a foreign associate of the US National Academy of Engineering. Roger Sargent died on 11 September 2018.[4]

The Profession of Chemical Engineering[edit]

Roger Sargent became a professor at Imperial College at an important point in the development of his profession. He was very aware of this, and that his experience of eight years as a practicing engineer at Air Liquide in Paris gave him a particular insight into how the subject should be taught:

"the concept of the engineer that I have been trying to build up, and it is precisely the combination of a high degree of competence, and the quantitative approach, with a wider social consciousness and the ability to view problems in their context, that is so valuable" (Inaugural Lecture, 1963).[5]

In particular he was vigorous in promoting that the operation and control of a chemical plant were important and worthy subjects to be taught (previously these had been thought to be the responsibility of semi-skilled operators,not professional engineers), and that the new computers and numerical methods should be fundamental to undergraduate chemical engineering education (this was in 1963). He always pushed for the highest degree of competence in all his students; the computer was never to be used as a way of avoiding important issues:

"they must learn the common standard techniques and know something of such questions as rounding errors, stability, and rate of convergence. To achieve even such slight understanding of numerical matters requires a strong foundation of the more classical branches of mathematics, particularly in the various kinds of linear algebra which have always formed the backbone of engineering mathematics courses — but of course, these must be oriented towards the purpose of the engineer, which is ultimately to produce an answer in terms of number." (Inaugural Lecture, 1963)

Process systems engineering[edit]

He is known principally as one of the earliest creators of the discipline of Process Systems Engineering, and his influence has been extremely widely spread among that community, by his research and also by his extraordinarily large family tree (Academic genealogy) of research students. In his career at Imperial College he supervised 61 research students, and several of these first-generation students have gone on to establish large research schools of their own. By 2008, this family tree extended to seven generations and 639 students and former students. In August 2016 the family tree numbered over 2,000 and the tree can be explored online at

Since 1994 his influence is commemorated in the annual "Roger Sargent" lectures at Imperial college; which he attends every year: .

Roger Sargent is widely regarded as the "father" of Process Systems Engineering (PSE). Through his academic and research activities Sargent built up an important school of PSE that is now widely spread all over the world. His contributions to the area are known worldwide and considered important pillars to the PSE area adding up to a collection of outstanding achievements over the last fifty years. It is only when we learn of those whose academic origins can be traced back to Sargent, do we realize the full contribution he has already made, not only through his own work, but by instilling his enthusiasm for excellence into those who later have taken up the challenge. The interests of this group are reflections of Sargent's focus on process modelling, simulation, optimisation and control, a field, which is now called PSE. Sargent's vision, leadership and guidance has led the establishment of PSE as the development of systematic techniques for process modelling, design, and control.

His software "SPEEDUP" (Simulation Programme for the Economic Evaluation and Design of Unsteady-State Processes) was first described in publication in 1964, and this package was widely used in research and industry more than 25 years later.

In October 2014 the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) created the Roger Sargent medal [6] for "research in computer-aided product and process engineering".

Professional affiliations[edit]

Sargent distinguished himself as an active member of several national and international corporations, namely the Institution of Chemical Engineers, which he joined in 1960 and where he became a president in 1973, and also the Science Research Council, the Council of Engineering Institutions, the European Federation of Chemical Engineering, the Ministry of Technology, the Department of Trade and Industry, the University Grants Committee, the University Funding Council, the British Council and the British-French Mixed Cultural Commission, amongst others, where he acted as a member of several boards and committees.

Personal life[edit]

Sargent was married to Shirley by whom he had two sons, Philip and Tony.[7]


Roger Sargent after attending one of the Roger Sargent lectures at Imperial College

His research and academic contributions have been recognized through a series of prestigious honours, including founder-fellow [8] of the Royal Academy of Engineering (1976), honorary fellowship of the City and Guilds of London Institute (1977), Silver Medal of the “Ville de Paris” (1986), Doctor honoris causa of the Institut National Polytechnique de Lorraine (1987) and of the University of Liège (1995), Fellow of Imperial College (1990), Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Richard W. Wilhelm Lectureship of Princeton University (1994), distinguished research lectureship in chemical engineering of Carnegie Mellon University (1996) and the Nordic Process Control Award (2003).[9] The American Institute of Chemical Engineering (AIChemE) awarded him the 1990 'Computing in Chemical Engineering' award [10] The Institution of Chemical Engineers awarded him the inaugural MM Sharma medal[11] in 2015. In September 2016 the Royal Academy of Engineering awarded him the Sir Frank Whittle Medal. The Sir Frank Whittle Medal is awarded to an engineer resident in the UK whose outstanding and sustained achievements have had a profound impact on their engineering discipline.

In addition to the awards he has gained, an award has been named in his honour: in October 2014 the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) created the Roger Sargent medal for "research in computer-aided product and process engineering".


  1. ^ "List of Fellows".
  2. ^ "Who's Who". Retrieved 2 October 2014.
  3. ^ "50th anniversary edinburgh dept of chemical engineering" (PDF).
  4. ^ Roger Sargent 1926-2018
  5. ^ "Inaugural Lecture, 12 March 1963" (PDF).
  6. ^ "Roger Sargent Medal award".
  7. ^
  8. ^ "List of RAE Fellows".
  9. ^ "text of award". "photo of Sargent Family PhD students at award January 2003".
  10. ^ "AIChemE 1990 award" (PDF). pages 7-8
  11. ^ "MM Sharma Medal award".

External links[edit]

Autobiographical summary of his engineering experiences during World War II (with Dudley Maurice Newitt, the real-life prototype for "M" in the Bond movies) and post-war in France:

Tribute to Roger Sargent in the special issue of the AIChemE Journal (Aug.2016):

Imperial College tribute to Roger Sargent being awarded the MM Sharma medal

Imperial College tribute to Roger Sargent being featured in AIChemE Journal special issue:

Roger Sargent - Research Gate profile, partial publications list:

Roger Sargent collated publications - full text copies:

Roger Sargent Academic Family Tree - as of Nov.2001 Roger Sargent Academic Family Tree - online version published Aug.2016

Imperial College biography:

Long Term Achievement Award biography (ESCAPE-14):

Long Term Achievement paper, European Symposium on Computer-Aided Process Engineering-14,

Special Issue on Process Systems Engineering, commemorating Roger Sargent's 60th birthday and comprising papers presented at special sessions of the November 1986 AIChE National Meeting at Miami Beach: Computers & Chemical Engineering Vol.12, No.7

Special Issue of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Journal in August 2016 dedicated to Prof. Sargent:, edited by Ignacio Grossmann, Costas Pantelides and Michael Doherty.

Annual Roger Sargent Lecture:

Centre for Process Systems Engineering:

Award of the Sir Frank Whittle medal: