Remembering Professor Emeritus Karl T. Aust

U of T pays tribute to a grain boundary engineering pioneer

April 16, 2015 | By Luke Ng

Professor Emeritus Karl T. Aust (Photo: Aust Family)

On April 3, 2015, the University of Toronto Engineering community lost Professor Emeritus Karl Thomas Aust.

Professor Aust received his BASc, MASc and PhD in metallurgical engineering (now materials science and engineering) from the University of Toronto in 1946, 1948 and 1950, respectively.

He was employed at US Metals Refining Company as a physical metallurgist from 1946 to 1947, at Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation as a research metallurgist from 1950 to 1952, then at Johns Hopkins University as a research associate from 1952 to 1955 and General Electric Research and Development Centre as a research metallurgist from 1955 to 1967.

In 1967, Dr. Aust returned to his alma mater as a professor of metallurgy and materials science at the University of Toronto. During this time, he also held visiting scholar and scientist positions at universities and research institutes in USA, Germany, France and Japan.

In 1991, Dr. Aust officially retired to the status of Professor Emeritus but continued to be active in research and co-supervised graduate students until 2013. He also served as a scientific advisor to Integran Technologies Inc. in Toronto from 1999 to 2014.

In his career, Professor Aust published over 250 scientific papers that established him as a pioneer in grain boundary engineering and the development of revolutionary nanocrystalline materials. He supervised and co-supervised more than 60 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows throughout his remarkable career.

Among his many national and international awards and accolades, Professor Aust received the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers’ (AIME) Mathewson Gold Medal (1961), a Guggenhiem Fellowship to the École des Mines Paris (1962–1963), a Hoffman Award (1971), Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Awards (1975 and 1988), Fellow of the American Society for Materials (FASM, 1979), a Yamada Science Foundation Award (1981), a Gauss Professorship at the Gottingen Academy of Science (1987) and the Canadian Metal Physics Medal (1988).

In 1996, Professor Aust was inducted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (FRSC), recognizing his distinguished lifelong contributions to his field. In 2004, he received recognition by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) for “important research achievements that have contributed to the sum total of human knowledge and the advancement of the economic and social well-being of Canadians over the 25 years of NSERC’s existence”.

Of possibly greater importance than his numerous technical achievements were Dr. Aust’s personal qualities. His kindness, generosity, humility and genuine sincerity have resulted in few of his associates considering themselves as anything less than close personal friends.