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Gotaas, Harold Benedict, 1906-1977



  • Existence: 1906 - 1977


Harold Benedict Gotaas was born in Mellette, South Dakota, on September 3, 1906. He received his B.S. in civil engineering from the University of South Dakota in 1928 and his M.S. in the same field from Iowa State College (now Iowa State University) in 1930. After working briefly as an engineer Gotaas taught for five years (1932–1936) at the University of South Dakota.

Gotaas then took an M.S. (1937) and an ScD. (1942), both in engineering, from Harvard. While working for these degrees Gotaas taught sanitary engineering at the Graduate School of Public Health, University of North Carolina. From 1942 to 1946 he served in the U.S. Army which assigned him to the Institute for Inter-American Affairs in Washington.

In 1946 Gotaas moved from the University of North Carolina to the University of California as professor of sanitary engineering. Gotaas also held the positions of director of Sanitary Engineering Laboratories and chairman of the Division of Civil Engineering at the University of California.

In January, 1957, Gotaas came to Northwestern as professor of civil engineering and dean of the Technological Institute. He became a Walter P. Murphy Professor in 1967. In 1970 Gotaas resigned as Dean but continued to teach until his retirement in 1975. Although broadly interested in civil engineering Gotaas specialized in sanitary engineering, waste management, and pollution control.

Gotaas wrote a book-length report on composting organic wastes for the World Health Organization and a major report on his laboratory studies of algae for Sewage processing. He also wrote numerous articles, primarily on sanitary engineering, pollution control, and engineering education.

Gotaas married Alice McLaughlin in 1930; the couple had a son, Richard M. Gotaas.

Widely traveled, Gotaas served as a member of the Rockefeller mission to Latin America in 1969. He received numerous medals and awards, among which were the Chicago Civil Engineer of the Year (1974), the Gordon M. Fair Medal (1974), and Honorary Membership in the Western Society of Engineers (1972). The chief of his honors, however, was his election to the National Academy of Engineering in 1967.

Gotaas died of pneumonia in the Evanston Hospital on August 24, 1977.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Harold B. Gotaas (1906-1977) Papers

Identifier: 22/4/4

Harold Gotaas came to Northwestern as professor of civil engineering and dean of the Technological Institute; he retired as dean in 1970 but continued to teach until his retirement in 1975.  The papers document Gotaas' academic career through course materials and publications, and include research and consulting files.

Dates: 1928-1977