Chester Kisiel Memorial Lecture

Chester C. Kisiel Biography                                                    List of Kisiel Lecturers 1982-Present

Chester C. Kisiel was born in Harrison Township, Pennsylvania, in 1929, the eldest of six children. He came from an immigrant background and spent his yough surrounded by the rivers, hills, and steel mills of Pittsburgh.

He worked from the age of fourteen to help support himself and his family and to help pay his educational expenses.  That strong steel town work ethic was an intrinsic part of Chester’s character and never left him until his untimely death on a handball court in Tucson in 1973.

Following high school, from 1951-53, Chester was a member of the U.S. Air Force, serving in Japan and Korea.  After military service, he was educated in civil and in sanitary engineering, first at Pennsylvania State University and later at the University of Pittsburgh, where he earned a Master of Science degree in civil engineering (1956), a Master of Public Health degree (1959), and a Doctor of Science degree (1963).

At Pitt from 1954-1965, he taught many courses, including engineering graphics, statics, dynamics, fluid mechanics, hydraulics, laboratory analysis of water and wastes (and, in the process, conceived and developed the sanitary laboratory), theory and practice in water and waste water treatment, stochastic hydrology, applied statistics for engineers, and systems analysis of water resources systems.

In 1966, he left the University of Pittsburgh to join the newly-formed Department of Hydrology and Water Resources at the University of Arizona.  At the time of his death in 1973, he was a Full Professor in Hydrology and Water Resources and held the same rank with the Department of Systems and Industrial Engineering.

There was a theme to Chester Kisiel’s professional work:  His continuing effort to bring mathematical and modern engineering methods to bear on problems in hydrology.  And he was not content to deal with existing problem statements.  In many cases, he refined and reformulated the problem itself, or he identified problems before many of his colleagues were aware of their existence.

His research activities focused on the application of systems theory, operations research, decision theory, mathematical statistics and theory of stochastic processes to problems in hydrology and water resources.  This entailed the study of worth of data, choosing models, uncertainties, indeterminacies, error propagation, space-time sampling of environmental processes, time series analysis, and modeling of the Tucson aquifer.  His power of synthesis was formidable and his scientific curiosity was never more evident in the innumerable questions he asked and the problems he sought to unravel.

The fruits of his efforts are evidenced in his many publications, in several international symposia in which he played a leading organizational and scientific role, and perhaps most important of all, in the stimulation and guidance he gave to his colleagues and students.  By these efforts he established an international reputation and a deep personal esteem on the part of those with whom he collaborated.

Chester Kisiel had the gift of self-examination, which was another way of saying that he had the gift of honesty.  He tried to be honest with himself and honest with others.  He could forgive many things but not something that, in his view, was a dishonest piece of work.  He brought to bear prodigious gifts in pursuing his goals.  He had the gift of hard work and uncompromising standards.  He was a hard task master, but he never demanded more of others than he was willing and able to do himself.  He had the gift of sound instinct, both with regard to technical matters and in the assessment of the strengths of his colleagues. He had the gift of stimulating and working with others across many disciplines.

  --- Written by Nathan Buras, Professor and Department Head Emeritus (Deceased)

With this Memorial Lecture Series, we honor Chester Kisiel's contributions to our department, its faculty and students, and to the field of hydrology and water resources, and the science that it has become.

LINK:  Reflections on Hydrology: Science and Practice edited by Nathan Buras, includes biographies and thematic discussion of, as well as the papers presented by, the first 11 Kisiel Memorial Lecturers. The book may be purchased through various retail outlets (e.g. Amazon, Barnes and Noble):  ISBN: 0875908748. ISBN-13: 9780875908748. Also see the published Google edition.