Professor Roger Sargent

I first encountered Roger as an undergraduate aspiring chemical engineer at Imperial College in the late 1960s.  His first-year lectures were really inspiring, giving insight into the role of the profession and the kinds of opportunities and problems a chemical engineer might face in practice. His lectures to the final year students were much more challenging, focusing on the mathematical basis for his own research agenda. I was later to learn that Roger was truly a pioneer, setting out an agenda for what he called Process Systems Engineering (PSE), a new branch of our discipline designed to address the fundamental engineering problems of design operation and control using modern tools and methods. Having set out a vision for the future, he set about building a research group to develop PSE, starting in the 1960s. Over the years, he supervised very many PhD students, including myself, many of whom became researchers in their own right.  Roger’s academic family tree is legendary, with thousands of PSE professionals able to trace their origins in the profession back to Roger at the root.

Professor Roger Sargent. Image courtesy of Imperial College, London

Roger served as head of the Chemical Engineering department at Imperial for many years and was responsible for recruiting me as a young lecturer. More importantly, his long tenure as Head enabled him to lead the development of the department as a real powerhouse, becoming recognised internationally as one of the leading chemical engineering departments globally.

Roger was active in the profession beyond the College.  He was a Founding Fellow of the Fellowship, later to become the Royal Academy of Engineering. He served with distinction as President of our Institution in the 1970s. However, his first loyalty was always to Imperial, and he spent his entire academic career there.   

I miss his calm and sage advice, and his sensitive leadership. His passing was a loss to the College, and to the international profession. It was an honour and a pleasure for me to work with him over the decades.  I look back on our time together with pride and great affection.

List image credit: cowardlion /

This story has been contributed by Past President John Perkins