Celebrating the life of Dr. Philip Hill, Professor Emeritus

The Faculty of Applied Science and the Department of Mechanical Engineering at UBC regretfully inform that Dr. Philip Hill, Professor Emeritus, passed away February 17, 2016.

Dr. Hill was born in Vancouver in 1932. He moved to Kingston, Ontario to attend Queen’s University as an undergraduate. He completed his Doctor of Science at MIT and taught at Queen’s University. He returned to Vancouver in 1975 when he joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering at UBC. He retired in 1997 but remained significantly engaged with the university and with local industry. By funding projects, supporting research, and supervising graduate students, he inspired many with his gentle challenges, deep knowledge and infectious optimism.

Dr. Hill was recognized internationally as an outstanding scholar and researcher, and leaves a tremendous legacy in numerous aspects of energy and propulsion as well as many decades-long working relationships with colleagues around the world. As a young professor at MIT in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he authored what is still the international standard text on jet propulsion and jet engine theory. He also wrote the essential reference work for engineers and scientists designing steam power plants, including nuclear plants.

In his UBC research lab during the 1980s and 1990s, Dr. Hill’s concern for the impact of diesel engine pollution on the environment and human health inspired him to develop the high-pressure direct injection (HPDI) of natural gas in diesel engines – a discovery that allows diesels to function at peak power with reduced emissions and costs. His innovation is used today in thousands of trucks, buses and cars in North America, Europe and Asia. In 1995, as a result of his research innovations, Dr. Hill co-founded Westport Innovations Inc., which specializes in alternative fuel for transportation and industrial machinery; Westport is now one of BC’s largest and fastest growing tech companies.

His innovative research contributions resulted in many awards, including the Science Council of BC’s Industrial Innovation Award, the Minister’s Environmental Award, APEGBC’s R.A. McLachlan Memorial Award, the Canadian Institute of Energy Award, and the Manning Principal Award for Innovation. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

As an educator, Dr. Hill had a significant and lasting impact on UBC’s engineering students. Many of his former students rank him amongst their most influential and motivational teachers and state that his thermodynamics classes, though complex, represented a highlight of their degrees. He was an outstanding role model for young professors and graduate students throughout his tenure at UBC, and his educational contributions were recognized by the UBC Killam Teaching Prize and the Walter Gage Award for Teaching Excellence.

Over the last 20 years of his life, Dr. Hill spent his time sailing at Jericho Beach, and spending time with his wife Marguerite, his children, and grandchildren.

Dr. Hill was a respected and treasured colleague, faculty member, teacher, and friend to many within the Faculty of Applied Science, and his personal warmth, integrity, and contributions will be greatly missed. The Faculty and the Department of Mechanical Engineering offer their deepest sympathies to his family and friends.