AKRON (Sept. 27, 2012)—Alan N. Gent, University of Akron scientist and educator renowned for his work on the fracture mechanics of rubber and plastics and winner of the Charles Goodyear Medal, died Sept. 20 at the age of 85.
Gent was regarded as the foremost expert in his specialty, and his research yielded significant contributions to the world's understanding of the physics of adhesion and the fracture of rubbery, crystalline and glassy polymers, according to the university. His work had the potential of impacting nearly every rubber or plastic product developed today.
Born in Leicester, England, he earned degrees in physics and math at the University of London, and received a doctorate there in 1955 on the mechanics of deformation and fracture of rubber and plastics.
At 17, he worked as a research assistant at the John Bull Rubber Co. and served in the British Army from 1947-49. He then became a research physicist and later a principal physicist at the British Rubber Producer's Research Association, where he initiated a program in engineering research.
Gent joined the University of Akron faculty in 1961, and spent nearly a half century at the school.
“Brilliant and unassuming, Dr. Gent was both a remarkable scientist and a remarkable man,” said Stephen Cheng, dean of the UA College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering. “From the beginning of his ties to the University of Akron, it was clear he possessed an extraordinary knowledge of and passion for his field.”
Cheng called him a visionary scientist and educator.
Gent had been assistant director of the Institute of Polymer Science, dean of graduate studies and research, as well as a researcher and professor. He also saved as a consultant and scientific adviser to Goodyear's Research Division for 38 years.
He published more than 200 papers and book chapters, held three patents and frequently was invited to address university and professional society meetings.
Gent received the Charles Goodyear Medal from the ACS Rubber Division in 1990, and also the George S. Whitby teaching award. Among a number of other honors he received was the Colwyn Medal of the Plastics and Rubber Institute in 1978.
The UA trustees have renamed the Ohio Research Scholar Professor at school in Gent's honor, now calling it the Alan N. Gent Ohio Research Scholar Professor of Polymers.