Benjamin C. Craft
and Murray F. Hawkins (circa 1959)
The History of Petroleum
Engineering at LSU
A major part of the departments history
is the story of the lifes work of two remarkable men: Benjamin C.
Craft and Murray F. Hawkins. These two men set the course of petroleum
engineering, not only at LSU, but, in many ways, in the petroleum industry
as a whole. Beyond sending competent engineers into the field, they helped
their students develop as people, and their influence is still evident,
both in the operation of the department and in the professional style
of their former students.
Petroleum engineering began as an option
of the geology curriculum in 1922. Temporary instructors taught petroleum
geology, petroleum production methods, petroleum utilization, and petroleum
cost accounting. The first full-time petroleum engineering faculty member
was Craft who came to LSU at the age of 25 from Stanfords graduate
program in 1929. Craft had a monumental task ahead of him when he arrived
in Baton Rouge. He was responsible for creating a series of courses and
for the corresponding class materials. As a matter of fact, few petroleum
engineering courses existed anywhere at that time and no texts had yet
been written. Nevertheless, in a short span of time the number of courses
offered at LSU in petroleum engineering increased dramatically - from
four in 1927 to 11 in 1930. By 1939, the petroleum engineering program
had become a department in the School of Geology and Craft was named department
head. In 1956, the department was moved from the School of Geology to
the College of Engineering.
Hawkins joined the department in 1946. His
academic experience was not in engineering, but he had worked for Carter
Oil Company Research and for the Ethyl Corporation in research. Hawkins
very rapidly familiarized himself with petroleum engineering technology.
He assisted Craft in teaching courses at every level of the program and
developed his own area of expertise reservoir engineering. Early
in the 1950s, Hawkins redesigned the reservoir engineering courses that
were offered in the department and put them at the edge of current technology.
Even today, the basic design of these courses remains the same.
Craft and Hawkins co-authored the textbook
Applied Petroleum Reservoir Engineering that became a standard
text in petroleum engineering courses both in the United States and around
the world. Published in 1959, the "Craft & Hawkins" textbook
is still a bestseller.
Crafts death in 1964 was a heavy blow
to everyone in the department. For nearly 35 years, he had led the department
on its path toward professional excellence. Although "Benny"
Craft would be a hard act to follow for even the most capable administrator,
Murray Hawkins was up to the challenge. He led the department until his
retirement in 1977.
Craft and Hawkins enabled the department
to develop, to grow, and, finally, to remain strong by fighting for their
convictions and the best interests of their students. They were highly
respected by their colleagues in academia, by top managers in the industry,
and by workers in the field. Of special importance, however, they were
down-to-earth, dedicated teachers and friends to the hundreds of students
who had passed through the department.
Benjamin C. Craft and Murray F. Hawkins
created one of the top programs in the country from nothing and established
the groundwork that kept the department on the leading edge of petroleum
technology and education throughout the years. They built the strong foundation
on which the department stands today.