Keith Brimacombe: 1943-1997

A partner in innovation

Keith Brimacombe, a professor in the Faculty of Applied Science with an international reputation as a leader in metallurgical process engineering, died suddenly on Dec. 16 in Vancouver. He was 54.

During his tenure at UBC, the former director of UBC's Centre for Metallurgical Process Engineering built a large collaborative research group in metallurgical process engineering consisting of about 70 faculty, graduate students, research engineers and technicians.

His fascination with how things work, which he developed while growing up in an Alberta farming community, led him into the sweltering confines of Canadian steel mills on a quest to understand and improve the processes involved in steel production.

He built his reputation in industry and academia by combining complex mathematical modelling with fundamental studies of physical and chemical phenomena, and direct measurements from industrial processes. He put up with the heat and dirt in steel mills to obtain in-plant measurements during various stages in metallurgical processes and then used that information to complement computer models and laboratory research.

Brimacombe, who played an important role in building partnerships between universities and industry, was appointed president and chief executive officer of the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) on Oct. 1, 1997. The foundation was established last year by the federal government to provide financial support for the infrastructure needs of the Canadian research sector.

Among the honours bestowed on him were the Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering, sponsored by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC); the B.C. Science and Engineering Gold Medal; the Ernest C. Manning Principal Prize; and the E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship. He was an officer of the Order of Canada and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Born in Nova Scotia, raised in Alberta, he obtained a BASc from UBC and a PhD at the Imperial College of Science and Technology, University of London. He joined UBC in 1970.

He is survived by his wife Margaret, daughters Kathryn and Jane, his mother, four brothers, and two sisters and their families.

The Dr. J. Keith Brimacombe Scholarship Fund has been established in his memory. Donations can be made care of the Toronto Dominion Bank, 2105 W. 41st Ave., Vancouver, B.C. V6M 1Z7.