Dr. Frank Aplan is among the most influential mineral processing leaders in both industry and academia. His studies of the processes involved in the preparation of coal and ores are acknowledged world-wide for their broad applicability. An authority on flotation, Dr. Aplan is especially known for his studies of the wetting of solids and their control through the adsorption of surfactant films and for his work on the effects of atomic defects on the properties effects and behavior of solid-liquid interfaces.
Born in Boulder, Colorado in 1923, Dr. Aplan acquired an early interest in the chemistry of paints at the age of 10. He enrolled in the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in 1941, but his studies were interrupted by four years serving his country as an Army combat infantryman during World War II. He was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge and the Bronze Star and was discharged in 1946, then returned to complete his studies at “Mines” in 1948. He went on to earn master's and doctorate degrees from Montana School of Mines in 1950 and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1957 respectively.
Working at Homestake, Climax, and Day mines grew the skill base for which Dr. Aplan is now recognized: integrating theory with practice in the processing of coal, ores, and industrial minerals. From 1957 to 1968, he rose from research engineer to group manager of research and development for Union Carbide. He later came to chair the Mineral Processing Department at Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) in 1968.
Dr. Aplan has made outstanding contributions to education in minerals and solid fuels processing. He supervised over 50 graduate students in mineral processing and introduced thousands of undergraduates to the concepts of solids processing. He authored over 150 publications in prestigious journals and symposia that continue to illuminate mineral processing aspirants with his findings and knowledge.
His excellence in teaching was affirmed when he received the student-nominated Wilson Outstanding Teaching Award at Penn State. He was awarded the Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Metallurgy and Mineral Processing for Penn State in 1999. He has received prestigious awards of the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers (AIME) and the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME): Richards Award, SME Distinguished Member, Taggart Award, AIME Honorary Member, Gaudin Award, and Percy Nichols Award. In 1989, the United Engineering Foundation created the Frank F. Aplan Award in his name “to recognize engineering and scientific contributions that further the understanding of the processing of minerals.” That same year, Dr. Aplan was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, the highest recognition that an engineer can achieve for his “contributions to education and research in the mineral industry through the integration of theory and practice covering metallic ores, industrial minerals, and coal.” Dr. Frank Aplan’s oral history (1998) is available from the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley.
Click here to visit Dr. Aplan's oral history, which is preserved at the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley.