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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University October 15, 2007 | Vol. 37 No. 7
Obituary:Bob Pond, Hopkins' First Metallurgist, Dies at 89

Bob Pond on the cover of 'Johns Hopkins Magazine,' April 1987
Photo courtesy of Bill Denison

Robert B. Pond Sr., Johns Hopkins' first metallurgist and a professor emeritus in the Whiting School's Department of Materials Science and Engineering, died Oct. 5 at Carroll Hospice Dove House in Westminster, Md. He was 89.

A member of the faculty from February 1947 until his retirement in 1998, Pond was devoted to teaching, research, consulting and lecturing in the field of physical metallurgy. He also was known to generations of students for the bow ties he fashioned out of aluminum for himself and each new professor in the department, all of whom donned them for commencement ceremonies.

"Bob Pond was one of the best teachers at Hopkins Engineering," recalled Bob Green, Pond's colleague and friend of nearly 40 years with whom he founded the Materials Department in 1983. "He knew all the things that are in the books, but he also knew the practical side of things from his industry experience," said Green, who recently retired. "He was friendly and enthusiastic, and as a teacher he was very approachable and kind, even when correcting your mistakes. All the students loved him. He taught me most of what I know and was a wonderful mentor and friend."

Widely considered the father of rapid solidification technology, Pond trained as an engineer at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, served in the Navy during World War II and worked at Bethlehem Steel Co. before coming to Johns Hopkins as a laboratory technician. He was accepted into the doctoral program but didn't have time to take all his classes because he began teaching veterans entering the university on the GI Bill. He was later elevated to the rank of professor, one of the few ever attaining that rank without a PhD.

His work involved solidification phenomena, the practice of cire perdue casting and growing multiple metallic single crystals in a single mold. For many years, Pond studied the nature of ductility at deformation rates exceeding the velocity of sound in metals and alloys and the deformation of single crystals on a microscopic scale. He took the first high magnification movies of slip bands forming and propagating during tensile formation, using a technique he christened "cinemicrography."

In addition to his work at Johns Hopkins, Pond served at various times as a visiting professor at Aberdeen Proving Ground's Terminal Ballistics Lab, research and development director for National Extrusion and an expert witness on metallurgical issues for Lloyds of London and others. He was a charter member and past president of Maryland Institute of Metals and a life member and fellow of ASM International, served on many committees and received numerous national awards. When Pond received the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award in 1996, students described him in their evaluations as "pretty cool," "incredible" and "the best professor I ever had."

More than 500 times, Pond gave his favorite lecture--an audience-participation event called "Fun in Metals"--to rapt crowds in high schools, colleges and elsewhere, and he prided himself on being able to give three-hour lectures without notes.

The house in Westminster that he shared with his wife of 65 years, Mary "Dolly" Wright Pond, and their six children let him take his work home. It had started as a little farmhouse, and Pond wrapped a big house around it--but not before he had fashioned three laboratories, two of them underground in the backyard, where he and the kids could play with metals.

Nick Jones, dean of the Whiting School, said that Pond's dedication as teacher and scholar continues to be recognized through two awards at the Whiting School: The Robert B. Pond Senior Achievement Award, presented annually to the senior student in Materials Science who best exemplifies Pond's devotion to scholarly and humane values, and the Robert B. Pond Excellence in Teaching Award, given each year to a faculty member who is committed to excellence in instruction and instilling in students the desire to learn and whose dedication to undergraduate students is exemplary.

In addition to his wife, Pond is survived by their children and spouses, Robert B. Pond Jr. and Angela Pond, Mary Jo and John Winter, Bertie B. Pond, William W. and Peggy Pond, Edward and Laurie Pond, and Margaret P. and David Shifler; 18 grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

Services were held Oct. 9 at Westminster United Methodist Church, and internment took place in Poplar Springs Cemetery in Franklin, Va. The family requests that memorial contributions be made to the Carroll Hospice Dove House, 292 Stoner Ave., Westminster, MD 21157.


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