Jan Mewis

Jan Mewis

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

1938 – Present

Chemical Engineer
Awarded Bingham Medal 2005

Jan Mewis studied Chemical Engineering at the Katholicke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium and received his master’s degree in 1961. While working in the IVP Laboratory, the research institute of the Belgian paint and printing ink industry, he obtained his Ph.D. with a thesis on “Tack of Printing Inks.” This was the start of a lifelong interest in complex fluids and in relating their industrial behavior to their fundamental properties. In 1969 Mewis returned to K.U. Leuven as a fulltime faculty member, where he has taught a wide range of courses, including a renowned “Theoretical Rheology” class. He was chairman of the Chemical Engineering Department from 1989 to 1995 and again from 1999 until 2002. Beginning in 1971, he spent a year at the University at Delaware with a NATO fellowship, working with A.B. Metzner (1977 Bingham Medalist). He returned twice more to Delaware (1981 and 2004) and was also a visitor at Princeton University in 1982. He spent shorter periods at various universities in the U.S. and Australia, including as a regular winter visitor at U.C. Berkeley for a number of years, during which time he collaborated with Morton M. Denn (1986 Bingham Medalist). Since October 2003 Mewis has been Professor Emeritus at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.

Mewis’ research activities span broadly across rheology and the processing of complex fluids. He has authored or co-authored about 200 publications and has given hundreds of lectures and seminars all over the world on this topic. He is best known for his often-cited work in three specific areas. In the area of suspension rheology, he published with A.B. Metzner the now classical paper on extensional flow of fiber suspensions, as well as a series of papers establishing the rheology of sterically stabilized suspensions. Later, he contributed substantially to the present understanding of the rheology of liquid crystalline polymers and that of immiscible polymer blends. In each of these cases his approach was to link the rheology to the underlying flow-induced changes in microstructure. He successfully applied a wide range of rheological procedures for probing the microstructure during flow. This was supplemented very early by adding other techniques for in situ, time-resolved structural analysis during flow, including various scattering techniques, rheo-optics, as well as dielectric techniques.

Throughout his career Mewis maintained a link with the industrial applications of rheology. He served on various industrial committees, he was active as a consultant both in Europe and in the U.S., and he is a member of the Innovation Board of Elementis-Specialties, a company that manufactures, among other things, rheological modifiers. It is perhaps less known to the rheological community that Mewis led for many years a second life, as an expert in the safety of chemical plants. He was one of the very first to teach a systematic course on this subject to chemical engineering students and authored a book on hazardous materials.

Mewis has also been very active in the international rheological community. He is a co-founder and former president of the Belgian Group of Rheology, and he served as chairman of the International Committee on Rheology (1992-96) after he co-chaired, with Marcel Crochet, the 11th International Congress on Rheology held in Brussels in 1992. Until April 2005 he was also a member of the Executive Committee of the European Society of Rheology, and, together with Norman Wagner (2014 Bingham Medalist), he wrote a well-received book on suspension rheology. For his various contributions to the field of rheology he received both the Gold Medal of the British Society of Rheology and the Bingham Medal of The Society of Rheology in 2005.


Jan Mewis (Joannes). KU Leuven Who's Who (accessed Jul 31, 2019).

Note: This biography is an adaptation of the following article previously published by The Society of Rheology.

Mewis Recognized for Suspension Work. Rheology Bulletin 2005, 74(2).