Department of Chemical Engineering
600 South Mathews Avenue
University of Illinois
Urbana, IL 61801
217-244-4146 fax 217-333-5052 mobile/text 217-689-1461
public key (gpg) Key fingerprint = AF6A 3D3C D196 F6E3 89A7 12AB 046B 04AA FCE7 CBCE
websites: www.engineerguy.com (media work)
Make Magazine called Bill Hammack a “brilliant science and technology
documentarian[s]”, whose “videos should be held up as models of how to
present complex technical information visually.” Wired called the
videos “dazzling.” In a series of stunning videos – viewed millions of
times – he gives masterful explanations of the engineering underlying,
for example, LCD monitors, fiber optics communications, and hard disc
Since 1999 Professor Hammack has focused on explaining
engineering and technology to the general public -- work done in
addition to his university duties as a tenured full professor. In
addition to being the
behind the “EngineerGuy” video series, he has written Why Engineers
Need to Grow a Long Tail: : A Primer on Using New Media to Inform the
Public and to Create the Next Generation of Innovative Engineers to
help his engineering colleagues use new media to create a literate
From 1999 to 2005 he broadcast weekly a public radio
commentary on engineering. Distributed by Illinois Public Radio, they
appeared on the public radio program Marketplace, and they appeared
regularly in Australia on Robyn Williams’ Science Show produced by the
Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
From August 2005 to August 2006 he served as a Diplomat at the U.S. Department of State. He worked as
a science advisor at the Korean Desk, working in part on the Six-Party
Talks to denuclearize North Korea, and as a member of the Bureau of
International Security and Non-proliferation working to secure
highly-enriched nuclear material around the world.
His course, The
Hidden World of Engineering, is taught every semester to a diverse mix
of students majoring in commerce, architecture, photography, history,
and graphic arts. This popular course gives students an appreciation
for engineering and for how engineers think. It is taught in a unique
way that lets the students work in teams and actually do engineering.
January 2019-present | William and Janet Lycan Professor, University
of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
August 2006-December 2018 | Professor & Morris Scholar,
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
August 2006-August 2014 | Professor (with tenure),
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
August 2005-August 2006 | Jefferson Science Fellow, U.S. Department of State
December 1997-August 2006 | Associate Professor, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
September 1992-December 1997 | Associate Professor, Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh)
September 1988-1992 | Assistant Professor, Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh)
Honors & Recognition
ACS/Exxon Fellowship in Solid State Chemistry, American Chemical Society, 1992
Teacher/Scholar Award, Dreyfus Foundation, 1993
Edwin F. Church Medal, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 2002
Service to Society Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineers, 2002
Science-in-Society Award, National Association of Science Writers, 2002
Silver Reel National News & Commentaries, National Federation of Community Broadcasters, 2003
President’s Award, American Society for Engineering Education, 2003
Distinguished Literary Contribution Furthering the Public Understanding of the Profession, IEEE, 2004
James T. Grady-James H. Stack Award, American Chemical Society, 2004
Science Writing Award, American Institute of Physics, 2004
Fellow, American Institute of Physics, 2009
Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2009
First Prize, Science OnLine Film Festival (inaugural prize),
Carl Sagan Award for the Appreciation of Science, Council of
Scientific Society Presidents, 2019
Selected Publications/Media Work
“EngineerGuy” Videos (delivered via YouTube)
- A continuing series of short video explaining the engineering behind everyday object; e.g., digital cameras, smartphone accelerometers, coffee makers, and lasers. They have been viewed over 30 million times. Included are
several special series: a complete version of Michael Faraday's great nineteenth century lectures on The Chemical History of a Candle and a 4-part series that details a nineteenth-century machine that performs Fourier analysis.
200 Public Radio Commentaries
- Created between 1999 and 2005, these commentaries, distributed by Illinois Public Radio, appeared on the popular business program Marketplace and internationally on Radio National Austria.
Fatal Flight: The True Story of Britain's Last Great Airship (2017) ISBN Hardcover 978-1-945441-01-1 Paperbound 978-1-945441-03-5 eBook 978-1-945441-02-8
- Fatal Flight brings vividly to life the year of operation of R.101, the last great British airship—a luxury liner three and a half times the length of a 747 jet, with a spacious lounge, a dining room that seated fifty, glass-walled promenade decks, and a smoking room. The British expected R.101 to spearhead a fleet of imperial airships that would dominate the skies as British naval ships, a century earlier, had ruled the seas. The dream ended when, on its demonstration flight to India, R.101 crashed in France, tragically killing nearly all aboard.
Combining meticulous research with superb storytelling, Fatal Flight guides us from the moment the great airship emerged from its giant shed—nearly the largest building in the British Empire—to soar on its first flight, to its last fateful voyage. The full story behind R.101 shows that, although it was a failure, it was nevertheless a supremely imaginative human creation. The technical achievement of creating R.101 reveals the beauty, majesty, and, of course, the sorrow of the human experience.
The narrative follows First Officer Noel Atherstone and his crew from the ship’s first test flight in 1929 to its fiery crash on October 5, 1930. It reveals in graphic detail the heroic actions of Atherstone as he battled tremendous obstacles. He fought political pressures to hurry the ship into the air, fended off Britain’s most feted airship pilot, who used his influence to take command of the ship and nearly crashed it, and, a scant two months before departing for India, guided the rebuilding of the ship to correct its faulty design. After this tragic accident, Britain abandoned airships, but R.101 flew again, its scrap melted down and sold to the Zeppelin Company, who used it to create LZ 129, an airship even more mighty than R.101—and better known as the Hindenburg.
Set against the backdrop of the British Empire at the height of its power in the early twentieth century, Fatal Flight portrays an extraordinary age in technology, fueled by humankind’s obsession with flight.
Michael Faraday’s The Chemical History of a Candle with Guides to the Lectures, Teaching Guides & Student Activities (with Don DeCoste)(2016) ISBN Hardcover 978-0-9838661-8-0 Paperbound 978-1-945441-00-4 eBook 978-0-9839661-9-7
- This companion book to Bill's videos of the Faraday Lectures contains the complete transcript of each lecture as delivered in the video series. To help readers grasp Faraday’s key points the book has an “Essential Background” section that explains in modern terms how a candle works. And, to help the modern reader, each lecture is preceded by a short guide written in contemporary language. These guides mirror the lectures chronologically so a viewer can follow while watching.Michael Faraday aimed his lectures toward those new to science, especially young people. His lectures remain today an excellent introduction to the scientific method and serve well as an entry point to the chemical sciences. For this reason the companion book features a detailed teaching guide. It contains a section “The Big Ideas of Chemistry,” that outlines the essential chemical background needed to understand the phenomena Faraday touches on in his lectures. This section uses simple analogies to give younger students an entry point to understanding the particulate nature of matter. The guide contains six activities and one set of demonstrations that teachers can use to help students investigate for themselves “the chemical history of a candle.” Each activity has a student worksheet followed by a teacher’s guide.
Albert Michelson's Harmonic Analyzer: A Visual Tour of a Nineteenth Century Machine That Performs Fourier Analysis (with Steve Kranz and Bruce Carpenter) (2014) ISBN Hardcover 978-0-9839661-6-6 Paperbound 978-0-9839661-7-3
- Albert Michelson’s Harmonic Analyzer celebrates a nineteenth century mechanical calculator that performed Fourier analysis by using gears, springs and levers to calculate with sines and cosines—an astonishing feat in an age before electronic computers. One hundred and fifty color photos reveal the analyzer’s beauty though full-page spreads, lush close-ups of its components, and archival photos of other Michelson-inspired analyzers. The book includes sample output from the machine and a reproduction of an 1898 journal article by Michelson, which first detailed the analyzer. The book is the official companion volume to the popular YouTube video series created by the authors.
Eight Amazing Engineering Stories: Using the Elements to Create Extraordinary Technologies (with Patrick Ryan & Nick Ziech) (2012) ISBN Paperbound 978-0-9839661-3-5 eBook 978-0-9839661-4-2
- A companion volume to the fourth series of EngineerGuy videos, Eight Amazing Engineering Stories reveals the stories behind how engineers use specific elements to create the material world around us. In eight chapters, the EngineerGuy team exposes the magnificence of the innovation and engineering of digital camera imagers, tiny accelerometers, atomic clocks, enriched uranium, batteries, microwave ovens, lasers, and anodized metals. In addition, short primers cover the scientific principles underlying the engineering, including waves, nuclear structure, and electronic transitions. "In Depth" sections cover entropy, semiconductors, and the mathematics of capacitors.
How Engineers Create the World: The Public Radio Commentaries of Bill Hammack (2011) ISBN Paperbound 978-0-9839661-0-4 ebook 978-0-9839661-1-1
- In over 200 delightful short essays Bill captures the creativity and impact of engineers. He talks of their spectacular achievements - jets, satellites, skyscrapers, and fiber optics—but draws his deepest insights from the everyday, the quotidian. He finds beauty, elegance and meaning in Ferris wheels, Tupperware, Slinkys, mood rings, waterless urinals and Velcro. Delivered originally on public radio between 1999 and 2005, each essay is a small slice of the world created by engineers. The essays also illuminate and inform about the important topics of our day by showing how intertwined engineering and technology are with terrorism, security, intellectual property and our cultural legacy.
Why Engineers Should Grow a Long Tail: A Primer on Using New Media to Inform the Public and to Create the Next Generation of Innovative Engineers (2010) ISBN Paperbound 978-0-615-39555-5 ebook 978-0-9839661-2-8
- Often the details of new media get lost in an alphabet soup that usually begins with an "i" - the iPod, the iPad, the iTouch. Yet the essence of new media is not in these devices, but in their use. This short primer shows engineers how to think about new media by focusing on the deeper issues of communicating in this new user- generated era. Readers will grasp the mindset of new media; an under- standing that will long outlast the latest social networking tools. It will empower practicing engineers to develop new, powerful ways to help the public understand what engineers do and why engineering is important; but perhaps most importantly this primer gives engineers the foundation for reaching the next generation of innovative engineers.