Biography: Gerlad T. Orlob

In 1979, well into an impressive academic and professional career in the UC Davis College of Engineering’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering that had begun in the early 1950s, Gerald T. Orlob, who passed away in 2013, was described as one of the world’s foremost authorities in his field of water quality modeling.

Orlob had earned that reputation more than a decade earlier, both in academia and through his affiliations with companies such as Water Resources Engineers, Uniconsult Inc. and Resource Management Associates. These consulting engineering firms specialized in the development and application of systems analyses and mathematical modeling for use in water resource development and water quality control. In the 1960s, Orlob worked on models that described the movement of salts and pollutants in the San Francisco Bay system and in the Santa Ana groundwater basin; the extent of thermal pollution in numerous lakes and estuaries, including Tennessee Valley Authority lakes; and the movement of pollution in Australia’s Sydney Harbor.

Orlob served as a diplomat of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers, and as a reserve officer in the Public Health Service. He established a water resources engineering program at the Catholic University in Chile, while serving as coordinator for the university’s cooperative education program. As early as 1956, he was publishing studies on the viability of sewage bacteria in sea water.

Orlob obtained his undergraduate and master’s degrees in civil and sanitary engineering at the University of Washington; he subsequently earned a doctorate in hydraulic engineering at Stanford in 1959. By this point, he already had worked as an instructor at UC Berkeley, and as a survey supervisor for the Washington Pollution Control Commission. He joined the UC Davis faculty in 1968, eventually chairing the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering from 1986 to ’88. He retired in July 1991.

Orlob’s career was marked by numerous honors and awards, including the 1963 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Hilgard Prize and Herring Medal, a 1973 Fulbright-Hayes Lectureship and the 1987 ASCE Julian Hinds Award. He was elected to the prestigious National Academy of Engineers in 1992, for fundamental contributions to the theory and practice of hydraulic, environmental and systems engineering applied to water quality prediction and management.

In 2002, Orlob and his wife demonstrated their commitment to teaching and research with a financial gift that endowed the Gerald T. and Lillian P. Orlob Professorship in Water Resources Engineering, which annual recognizes faculty members who are acknowledged leaders in water resources engineering.

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