János Miklós Beér, professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, passed away on 8 December 2018. A longtime member of The Combustion Institute, Beér’s research in the field of combustion and cleaner-burning fossil fuels significantly influenced the academic community and combustion industry for over 45 years.
Born in Budapest, Hungary in 1923, Professor Beér attended Budapest’s University of Technical and Economic Sciences. His education was disrupted in 1944 when he was conscripted into the Hungarian Army’s labor battalion. Beér deserted the battalion to join a university squadron with the secret objective of getting Hungary out of the war. He later aided in the rescue of Jews in Hungary from the German SS and the Hungarian Arrow Cross Party. After his service, Beér resumed his education, earning a first class honours degree from the Technical University of Budapest, and his PhD from the University of Sheffield, England. Beér remained at the University of Sheffield as a ‘CEGB Research Fellow’ and returned to this University later in his career where he was awarded his Doctorate of Science.
His interests and talents led him to many occupations, including head of the IFRF, professor of Fuel Science at Pennsylvania State University, and professor and head of Chemical Engineering and Fuel Technology at the University of Sheffield, and the dean of Engineering in the same univeristy. Later he joined the Engineering Faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as Professor of Chemical and Fuel Engineering, becoming Professor Emeritus in 1993.
Beér focused much of his work on improving electric power generation from fossil fuels, aiming to gain efficiency, lower costs, and reduce emissions. He continued to share his knowledge well past his retirement through presentations and publications. As a prolific author and educator, Beér penned over 300 articles and co-authored a foundational textbook, “Combustion Aerodynamics.”
Among his numerous honors, Beér received the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Hungarian Republic for his support of Hungarian higher education and research; and the Worcester Reed Warner Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. In 2003, U.S. Energy Secretary, Spencer Abraham awarded him the Homer H. Lowry Award, the Department of Energy’s highest honor, for his work leading to commercial burners that achieved high efficiencies while minimizing noxious emissions such as nitrogen oxides. He was the recipient of the Alfred C. Egerton Gold Medal in 1986, one of the highest awards the Combustion Institute bestows. His colleagues considered him one of the giants in his field, but also a warm, friendly and caring gentleman.
The Combustion Institute honors János Beér’s accomplishments and the work of scientific leaders who make significant contributions for the advancement of many diverse communities around the world.