John Michael Prausnitz
BornJanuary 7, 1928 (1928-01-07) (age 96)
Berlin, Germany[1]
Alma materCornell University (B.Che.)
University of Rochester (M.S.)
Princeton University (Ph.D.)
Known forMolecular thermodynamics, NRTL, UNIQUAC, UNIFAC
ChildrenStephanie Prausnitz, Mark Prausnitz
AwardsNational Medal of Science (2003)
Scientific career
FieldsChemical Engineering
InstitutionsUniversity of California, Berkeley
Doctoral advisorRichard H. Wilhelm

John Michael Prausnitz (born January 7, 1928) is an emeritus professor of chemical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley.[2][3]

Prausnitz is a member of the National Academy of Sciences[4] and the National Academy of Engineering for contributions to the thermodynamics of phase equilibria and its application to industrial process design.[5] In 2003, he received the National Medal of Science for his work in molecular thermodynamics.[6] He developed many of the activity coefficient models used for the design of major chemical plants.[7]


Prausnitz was born in Berlin, Germany, on January 7, 1928. His father and his mother's stepfather were both Jewish doctors. In 1933, when the Nazi Party rescinded the licenses of Jewish doctors, they were able to continue to work because they had been Frontkämpfer, "front fighters," during World War I.[1]

In 1937,[8] at age 9, Prausnitz emigrated with his parents and sister to the United States, where he had an uncle in Lynbrook, New York on Long Island. His father was able to practice medicine because his German medical license was recognized by the State of New York. Prausnitz lived briefly in Lynbrook, then in Manhattan, and Forest Hills, Queens. He attended Public School 101 in New York.[1]

In 1950, Prausnitz earned his B.Ch.E., a five-year degree, from Cornell University. In 1951, he received his M.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Rochester. He then joined Princeton University as a student of Richard H. Wilhelm. He was able to spend two summers working at the Brookhaven National Laboratory.[8] Prausnitz received his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Princeton University in 1955 after completing a doctoral dissertation titled "Liquid-phase turbulent mixing properties."[9]


Prausnitz joined the College of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley in 1955, attracted by the work of Joel Hildebrand on mixtures and by the opportunity to help shape what was then a young department.[2][8] Although he officially retired from teaching in the Department of Chemical Engineering in 2004,[8] Prausnitz remains a Faculty Senior Scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a Professor of the Graduate School at Berkeley.[4][10]

Through his work on thermodynamics and phase behavior, Prausnitz has developed the field of molecular thermodynamics, relating macroscopic properties to those of single- and multi-atom molecules. He initiated work on a number of important models for phase equilibria and the analysis of mixtures of solids, fluids, and gases, including the NRTL,[11] UNIQUAC, and UNIFAC models.[8][12] He is recognized for his engineering-oriented approach to molecular thermodynamics[13] and its application to industrial process design.[5]

During his career at Berkeley, Prausnitz published hundreds of scientific papers, monographs and books detailing his theoretical and experimental work.[12] In 2011, the Journal of Chemical and Engineering Data published an issue as a Festschrift in his honor.[8] At that time Prausnitz was credited with having published more than 760 articles, in 134 journals, with 421 different co-authors, from over twenty countries.[1][8]

Prausnitz was the founding editor of the Annual Review of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, working with it from 2008 to 2018.[14][15] His books include Computer Calculations of Vapor−Liquid Equilibria (1967), the graduate textbook Molecular Thermodynamics of Fluid-Phase Equilibria (1969; 1986; 1999), and later editions of Regular and Related Solutions (1970) and The Properties of Gases and Liquids (1977; 1987; 2001).[8]

Prausnitz was also a supporter of the Leonardo Project, an initiative to connect sciences with society, art, and philosophy, inspired by Jacob Bronowski and The Ascent of Man. The project developed and shared multidisciplinary case studies, primarily for use in undergraduate classes.[1][16]

Personal life

John Prausnitz has a son, Mark Prausnitz, who is a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology.[17]


Prausnitz was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1973[5][4] and the National Academy of Engineering in 1979 for contributions to the thermodynamics of phase equilibria and its application to industrial process design.[5] He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1988.[4]

Prausnitz has been given many awards, from the Colburn Award of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) in 1962[18] to the National Medal of Science for his work in engineering-oriented molecular thermodynamics in 2003.[13][6] In 2012, he received the Lifetime Achievement in Chemical Engineering Pedagogical Scholarship, given by the American Society for Engineering Education.[19]

As of 2016, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers renamed the Institute Lecturer Award in his honor as the John M. Prausnitz AIChE Institute Lecturer Award.[20][21]


  1. ^ a b c d e Burnett, Paul. "John Prausnitz: Chemical Engineering at UC Berkeley, 1955–2020 University History Interviews conducted by Paul Burnett in 2018 and 2019" (PDF). Oral History Center University of California The Bancroft Library.
  2. ^ a b Rascouët-Paz, Anna (24 May 2011). "Annual Reviews Conversations Presents An Interview with John M. Prausnitz" (PDF). Annual Reviews.
  3. ^ Prausnitz, John M. (7 June 2019). "Glückliche Reise". Annual Review of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. 10 (1): 1–15. doi:10.1146/annurev-chembioeng-060718-030112. ISSN 1947-5438.
  4. ^ a b c d "John M. Prausnitz". College of Chemistry, UC Berkeley.
  5. ^ a b c d "Dr. John M. Prausnitz". NAE Website. Retrieved 3 March 2022.
  6. ^ a b "John M. Prausnitz". National Science and Technology Medals Foundation. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  7. ^ O'Connell, John P. (2011). "Preface to the John M. Prausnitz Festschrift". Journal of Chemical & Engineering Data. 56 (4): 691–693. doi:10.1021/je2000843.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h O'Connell, John P. (14 April 2011). "Preface to the John M. Prausnitz Festschrift". Journal of Chemical & Engineering Data. 56 (4): 691–693. doi:10.1021/je2000843. ISSN 0021-9568.
  9. ^ Prausnitz, John Michael (1956). Liquid-phase turbulent mixing properties.
  10. ^ "Alumnus Awarded Nation's Highest Science Honor". Rochester Review. Vol. 68, no. 1. University of Rochester. 2005.
  11. ^ Heidemann, Robert A.; Mandhane, Jamanlal M. (May 1973). "Some properties of the NRTL equation in correlating liquid—liquid equilibrium data". Chemical Engineering Science. 28 (5): 1213–1221. doi:10.1016/0009-2509(73)85030-4.
  12. ^ a b Knapp, Helmut; Sandler, Stanley I. (1 August 1998). "A Short History of Molecular Thermodynamics and a Tribute to John M. Prausnitz". Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research. 37 (8): 2899–2902. doi:10.1021/ie970776h.
  13. ^ a b Sanders, Robert (16 February 2005). "Chemical engineer John Prausnitz awarded National Medal of Science".
  14. ^ Doherty, Michael; Segalman, Rachel (7 June 2019). "Introduction". Annual Review of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. 10 (1): i–ii. doi:10.1146/annurev-ch-10-041719-100001. ISSN 1947-5438. Retrieved 25 May 2023.
  15. ^ Prausnitz, John (2010-06-15). "Preface". Annual Review of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. 1 (1): doi:10.1146/ ISSN 1947-5438.
  16. ^ Prausnitz, John (1 August 2016). "Teaching Tips— Humanities and Social Relevance for Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Students: The Leonardo Project". Chemical Engineering Education. 50 (3): 175–175. ISSN 2165-6428.
  17. ^ "Mark R. Prausnitz is Named 2023 AIChE Institute Lecturer". Press Releases. American Institute of Chemical Engineers. 6 June 2023. Retrieved 9 November 2023.
  18. ^ King, C. Judson (October 20, 2020). "Meet our faculty: John Prausnitz | College of Chemistry".
  19. ^ Wang, Linda (October 8, 2012). "John Prausnitz Wins Lifetime Achievement Award". Chemical & Engineering News. 90 (41). Retrieved 25 May 2023.
  20. ^ Beristain, Kloey (13 April 2022). "Chemical engineering professor receives award". The Brown and White.
  21. ^ "Institute Lecturer Award". 28 March 2012.