Photo of Edwin N. Lightfoot

Edwin N. Lightfoot

  • National Medal of Science
  • Engineering

For his innovative research and leadership in transport phenomena focusing on biochemical and biomedical engineering with application to blood oxygenation, bioseparation techniques, and diabetic responses.

Edwin Lightfoot on getting his start in biomedical engineering

Both figuratively and literally, University of Wisconsin-Madison chemical engineer Edwin N. Lightfoot wrote the book on transport phenomena, a study of the transport of momentum, mass, and energy, particularly as it applies to biomedical and biochemical engineering. The book that he co-wrote with colleagues Robert Byrd and Warren Stewart, first published in 1960, is a seminal text on the subject, and remains a classic to this today.

Lightfoot’s research has advanced the study of transport phenomena, and has yielded some important breakthroughs. In his first job after receiving his Ph.D. from Cornell University, Lightfoot worked for Pfizer & Co, where he patented a commercial process for recovering and purifying vitamin B12, which plays an important role in the proper functioning of the brain and nervous system. In winning the National Medal of Science, Lightfoot was cited for his work’s numerous medical applications, including to “blood oxygenation, bio-separation techniques, and diabetic responses.”

Lightfoot remains active at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he is the Hilldale Professor Emeritus in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. He is currently focused on furthering the growth of biotechnology.

By Jeremy Gordon