Robert Byron Bird

Robert Byron Bird

University of Wisconsin–Madison

February 5, 1924 – November 13, 2020

Chemical Engineer
Awarded Bingham Medal 1974
Fellow, Elected 2015

Dr. Robert Byron Bird is an American chemical engineer who focused heavily on rheology in his research. He obtained his BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Illinois in 1947 but started his undergraduate career at the University of Maryland before World War II. After returning from the army, he finished his last two years of undergrad at the University of Illinois. He then received his PhD in Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin in 1950. After finishing his PhD, Bird worked as a Post-doctoral Fellow at the University of Amsterdam for a year from 1950-1951 and during the same time was a project associate in chemistry at the University of Wisconsin. From 1951-1952, he works as an assistant professor of chemistry at Cornell University.

Bird then returned to his alma mater of the University of Wisconsin, where he worked from 1953 until he retired with the status of Professor Emeritus. Bird had many other positions throughout his time at the University of Wisconsin. In 1958, he was a Fulbright lecturer and Guggenheim Fellow at Technische Universiteit Delft (Delft University of Technology). From 1962-1963, he worked as a Fulbright professor at both Kyoto University and Nagoya University in Japan. Lastly, in 1994, Bird held the position of visiting professor at Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium.

Dr. Bird is known for his work in transport phenomena of non-Newtonian fluids, the kinetic theory of polymers, and the behavior of polymeric fluids. He, along with Ed Lightfoot and Warren Stewart, wrote a textbook on transport phenomena called Transport Phenomena, which was published in 1960. Bird was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Ronald Reagan in 1987 “for his profoundly influential books and research” (National Science Foundation). Robert Bird was awarded the Bingham Medal for his “distinguished career as an educator and for his research achievements in rheology” (Physics Today 1974).


Bird wins Bingham Medal in Rheology. Physics Today 1974, 27(11), 75. Go to link.

Transcript of an Interview of R. Byron Bird by James G. Traynham on 1 October 1998. Oral History Program, Chemical Heritage Foundation: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Go to link.

Robert Byron Bird. Winsonsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters. Go to link.

The President's National Medal of Science: Recipient Details – Robert B. Bird. National Science Foundation. Go to link (accessed July 18, 2018).