Dr. Charles Westbrook graduated as valedictorian in the class of 1967 from Harvey Mudd College with a BS in physics and was awarded a Fannie and John Hertz Fellowship for graduate study in applied science and engineering at the University of California at Davis/Livermore. He carried out graduate research in computational astrophysics, earning a PhD and joining the physics department at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. During the past 45 years at LLNL, Dr. Westbrook has carried out research and was division leader of the Computational Physics Division, the Applied Physics Division, the Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Division, and the Chemical Biology and Nuclear Chemistry Division.
Dr. Westbrook’s research has been primarily in the area of chemical kinetic modeling of combustion of hydrocarbon and related fuels, with extensive collaboration and funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Defense, and corporations that produce and use transportation fuels, including both auto and truck makers and oil refining companies. He has been a consultant with U.S. companies and with national oil companies in Brazil (Petrobras) and Saudi Arabia (Saudi Aramco). He pioneered application of computer simulations to kinetic analysis of complex fuels including gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel and natural gas. He led a project that used kinetic models to explain for the first time in fundamental terms, the connections between hydrocarbon fuel molecular size and structure and their macroscopic properties such as octane number and cetane number. His models for combustion kinetics of practical fuels are used all over the world today in university and industrial combustion research.
Charlie is a fellow of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), and he has received the Horning Memorial Award and the Arch Colwell Award of Merit from the SAE for outstanding contributions to understanding the interactions between fuels and engines. He also received the Thomas Midgley Award from the American Chemical Society, the Wilhelm Jost Memorial Award from the Deutsche Bunsengesellschaft für Physikalische Chemie and the Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen. Dr. Westbrook recently completed a four-year term as president of the Combustion Institute, an international association of combustion researchers, and he was awarded the 2008 Bernard Lewis Gold Medal from the Combustion Institute. In 2010, he received an award of Docteur Honoris Causa from the Institute National Polytechnique de Lorraine and the Universite de Nancy for his career-long research in combustion chemistry.
In Dr. Westbrook’s Hertz Fellowship interview with Dr. Edward Teller in 1967, Dr. Teller asked the question “If I fire a pistol towards a hole in a garden wall, three things will come out on the other side of the wall, a bullet, a pulse of light, and a sound wave. Which of these will experience the greatest Coriolis acceleration?” No indication of the correct answer was provided by Dr. Teller, and any good answers would be appreciated.
Charles lives “off the grid” in a solar-powered ranch in the hills south of Livermore, California where his family has an olive orchard and make high quality extra virgin olive oil from Spanish arbequina olives.
2017, Member, National Academy of Engineering