MIT model explains how the brain can learn novel tasks while still remembering what it has already learned.
Dr. J. Edward Vivian, professor emeritus of chemical engineering, died July 23 in Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, VT, at the age of 83.
Professor Vivian and his wife, the late Florence (Frye) Vivian, lived for many years in Arlington before moving to Burlington in 1988 to be near family. Mrs. Vivian died in 1993.
Professor Vivian was born in Montreal. In his youth he studied concert piano and was headed toward a performance career when studies at McGill University introduced him to the engineering profession. He received a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from McGill in 1936 and two postgraduate degrees from MIT, the SM in 1939 and ScD in 1945.
He was an instructor in the Department of Chemical Engineering starting in 1938 and became an assistant professor in 1942. He was promoted to associate professor in 1946 and full professor in 1956. He retired in 1980. He served as faculty assistant to the vice president of MIT in 1957-58 and was executive officer of his department from 1974 to 1980.
Professor Vivian's primary research interests were gas absorption and chemical kinetics, separation processes, distillation, air pollution control and plant design.
Throughout his professional career, Professor Vivian was deeply committed to the advancement of engineering technology and higher education. Starting in his postgraduate years, he took special interest in his department's "Practice School" program, which places students and teachers on site in problem-solving partnerships with chemical engineering companies.
He served as assistant director of the Bangor Practice School Station (1938-41), and director of the Buffalo Practice School Station (1941-43), the Oak Ridge Engineering Practice School (1948-57) and the School of Chemical Engineering Practice School (1946-57), a position he resumed in 1973 until his retirement.
His interest extended to international education and he was a visiting professor at the Birla Institute of Technology and Science in Pilani, India, in 1972. He also served as a member of a team in 1975 to study the establishment of a postgraduate technical institution by the National Institute of Industry in Madrid, Spain.
Professor Vivian was active in several government projects. He participated in Department of Defense research for the Manhattan Project during World War II and was a member of the Special Materials Advisory Group of the Atomic Energy Commission from 1949 to 1954.
He was a Fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and a member of the American Chemical Society, the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry, the American Society for Engineering Education and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
As a young man, Professor Vivian was an enthusiastic adventurer with a love of skiing, fishing, climbing and motorcycling. While teaching in the Maine practice school, he organized and led wilderness experiences for students up Mt. Katahdin.
He leaves three children, John E. of Burbank, CA, David J. of Saunders-town, RI, and Ann Vivian of Burlington; a sister, Marjorie Lee of Beaconsfield, Quebec, and four grandchildren.
A memorial service in celebration of Professor Vivian's life was held July 30 at the First Congregational Church in Burlington. Contributions in his memory may be made to the church's COTS Family Services Program or the Memorial Garden Fund.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on August 28, 1996.