Early in his career, Norman Hackerman worked on corrosion research as part of the Manhattan Project, where he was assigned to the production team for the Little Boy nuclear weapon in 1943. His work on understanding fundamental properties of metals and how they corrode under varying conditions was vital to the effort.
Years later, Hackerman was quoted as saying his research for the Manhattan Project was “necessary, but not interesting.” However, it spurred his interest in investigating electrochemically initiated corrosion and how coatings or chemical treatments could slow the chemical interactions associated with metal degradation. His research became highly useful to a wide range of manufacturers, particularly auto and oil companies.
Hackerman was also known as a strong advocate for higher education, and served as president of Rice University for 15 years. Under his leadership, several new schools were established, the university’s endowment was quadrupled and faculty grew by 229 members.
By Jen Santisi