In Memoriam: Paul Duby, Emeritus Professor of Earth and Environmental Engineering (1933-2019)

May 07 2019 | By Joanne Hvala

Paul Duby, an emeritus professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering, died this past weekend at the age of 85.  Devoted to his department, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and Columbia University, Professor Duby is remembered as a scholar, an outstanding researcher, and a superb teacher, whose students have fond memories of his guidance and mentorship. One example of his institutional dedication was his many years of service as a senator in the University Senate, culminating in his chairing the executive committee.

His research was in the areas of extractive metallurgy, electrochemical and hydrometallurgical processes, including the corrosion of metals and wastewater treatment and material recycling. In particular, he focused on electrowinning of rare earth metals from mixtures of molten salts and new electrodes for plating alloys.

Duby received two degrees from the University of Brussels, an Ingenieur Civil Mecanicien at Electricien in 1956 and an Ingenieur Commercial in 1959, before earning his Doctor of Engineering Science degree from Columbia University in 1962. Among the many honors and recognitions he received are the Laureate of the Concours Universitaire, Belgium, and the Medal of the Free University of Brussels.

Several of his former students reflected on Professor Duby’s contribution to their lives and careers.

Sam Marcuson, a student of Professor Herbert Kellogg, whom Duby mentored, described Duby as a “courtly professor of the old school,” who demanded rigor in his classes and whose interest in his students went beyond the classroom. In 1974, Duby took a station wagon full of students on a field trip to Bethlehem Steel and Pechiney aluminum in Hagerstown, Maryland. Summing up, he said, “Professor Duby cared and this caring made a difference to me and other students.” 

D. Nagaraj, a chemical metallurgist like Duby, also remembers him as a great teacher. “I took three courses with him. And I vividly remember the classrooms, most of the concepts and diagrams, his handwriting, his soft voice, his smile..... I still have the class notebooks. And I have put all of the learnings from his courses to very good use in my career.”

Echoing these sentiments, Professor Brij Moudgil, called Duby “a great teacher, an outstanding researcher, and above all a kind-hearted, gentle human being. He was most caring of students’ well-being and was always ready to share his wisdom. He was very approachable to students and professionals alike. I was fortunate to meet him fairly regularly during my visits to Columbia. He will be sorely missed.”