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In Memoriam

William Hillig


“Paying it forward” in technology—Wrapping a “Bow Tie” around what Bill Hillig started in CMCs 

by Todd Alhart


In 2016, GE and the Aviation industry celebrated a major materials milestone with the introduction of ceramic matrix composites (CMCs) in the CFM LEAP engine. Each of the more than 14,000+ engines now on order will have 18 shrouds made of this watershed material innovation. 


This innovation, of course, was no small feat. The research and development of this new material spanned decades and several generations of GE researchers. But when you ultimately deliver a breakthrough that shattered the heat tolerance threshold of jet engine parts by not tens but hundreds of degrees, the journey was well worth it. And that is how advances in technology work, with every new generation of scientists and engineers building on the discoveries and breakthroughs of the last.


We pay it forward.


Recently, one of GE’s earliest research pioneers in CMCs, Dr. William (Bill) Hillig, passed way. He retired from GE’s Research lab after a successful 36-year career in 1989, long before most current GE research employees worked for Global Research. But those who had the privilege of working with him like chief scientist Krishan Luthra remember a true scientific visionary who was a thorough gentlemen in the truest sense.


Luthra, who was his manager for several years, said Bill’s contributions put us on the right path to commercialization, stating, “Bill had the vision back in the seventies to create silicon carbide (SiC) fiber reinforced silicon Si–SiC composites that ultimately led to the approach used to form CMC parts used in aircraft engines today.”


Luthra noted the work Bill did was key to later breakthroughs in achieving what’s called the “near net-shape” of parts. This means that when forming a part during the manufacturing process, it maintains close to its actual size and shape. Luthra said this was an essential barrier to break through to be successful in commercializing the CMC technology.


Following Dr. Hillig’s retirement from GE, he joined Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) as a research professor in materials science. During his career, he held 12 patents and had more than 70 papers, reviews and book contributions published. Many of his papers focused on advanced materials, including high-temperature ceramics and ceramics composites.


Luthra said, “As we celebrate technical milestones today, it’s important that we look back and remember those before us whose work we built upon to get there. I’ll never forget Bill. Each day he came to work wearing a bow tie. It was kind of his trademark, and in a way symbolic.”


Luthra concluded, “When you tie a bow tie, you must bring two loose ends together. And that’s what we have essentially done with CMCs. We took the end he started and advanced the work he and his generation made to bring to market. And this journey continues with the present and future generations to come.”



The following deceased ACerS members are organized as their information is received.


Leslie Eric Cross


Richard Alan Alliegro


Hans Hausner


William McCracken


Neil Ault


Larry Hench


Joel Moskowitz


S. Donald Stookey


Warren W. Wolf


J. Lambert Bates


Robert W. Richards


Marija Kosec


Leslie J. Bowen


Irv Gower


Matthew Kerper


Thomas J. Mroz


Alan Searcy


Irvin F. Havens


C. Rogers Westlake


Torstein Utigard


William “Bill” Bates


John A. Cable


Reldon Cooper


Charles J. Deignan Sr.


Robert Hatch


Coy L. Huffine


Gordon H. Johnson


Lyle E. Shoot


Seymour A. Bortz


Gian Nicola Babini (former president of International Ceramic Federation, the European Ceramic Society and organizer of ICC2)


Andre Ezis


Henry M. O’Bryan Jr.


Jules Routbort


Eva Zeisel (honory member)


Gary Schlager


Harrison Corbin Van Cott


Alan Franklin


Wendell S. Williams


Robert C. Weedy


Roy Victor Harrington


Robert L. Snyder


Russell L. Yeckley


Charles Venable Jr.


G. S. Dhami



Fennimore Nelson Bradley


Roy W. Rice


Gunter Hermann


John Randall Wheeler


Tsuneharu Ogasawara


Elizabeth “Beth” Judson


Yoshiro Harada


James Dean Welterlen


Rustum Roy


Roy E. Gorton Sr.


Osgood James Whittemore


George Kepka


George C. Steer


Robert J. Long


Jay Comeforo


Norman K. Russell


William Brown


Kenneth Lawrence “Larry” Stover


Frederick F. Lange


Winston Duckworth


Charles Bachman


David R. Watson


James G. Gibson


John S. Haggerty


Robert K. Longritz


Francis (Fritz) W. Henry


James J. Mattis


Richard Renskers


Silas Larson


James V. Jones


Anthony G. Evans


Peter J. Hoagland


L.W. Coughanour


Stephan Mitoff


J. Walter Szymaszek


Robert Newnham


David W. Kellerman


Randall C. Ragan


Janet B. Quinn


Basil G. Staples


Walter Bennett


Edward P. Schauss


Henry Paul Kirchner


Carlton H. Hogue


Edgar Ronald Tostevin


Alfred Dube


Megumi Tashiro


Ronald Stanton Gordon


Robert H. Doremus


John “Jay” P. Gleason Jr


Helmut Franz


Please contact Eileen De Guire with questions or to provide a notice or update.

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